with permission Fri-6-September-2002. (not SLAA conference approved)
Number 1 — Developing Twelve
Find people with significant recovery to learn
from. If you cannot find people and groups in your area, call national
fellowship offices for long distance contact. Also, each fellowship has
national conferences every year at which you can meet people.
that Twelve Step support is essential. Twelve-Step support lays
the foundation for the repair you need to do and sustains growth.
must use the phone. Overcoming fear of using the phone is critical
if you are to stay in touch with group members and sponsors. It is okay to call
as many times as you need — even many times in one day or in an hour.
patient. Going through the stages takes time. There are no
magic solutions — only time and constant use of the program principles.
to meetings consistently. Find groups that are right for you and
make a commitment to them. Remember, you are building a support network
Use your sponsor(s). A sponsor is
someone who knows the detail of what has happened to you and coaches you on using
the program. You can ask for a temporary sponsor. You can have more
than one sponsor.
Use program literature. Find
program material. Study them. Ask about whatever you don't understand.
contact outside the meetings. Often more happens outside the meeting
than in it. Groups often adjourn for coffee or supper. Some have standing
breakfasts and lunches. Some offer retreats and open meetings. Participate
in the life of the fellowship by going to these events.
— Telling Others About Your Addiction
Be careful: tell
only those you trust. This was far and away the most frequent comment.
Addicts say that in deciding whether to tell someone, the key criterion is this:
how much do you trust that person.
Wait. Even after
having decided to tell someone, take time to think over your decision before actually
going through with it.
Know your motives. What
payoffs do you seek? Do you want support or are you looking for approval?
it if you can help others with the same problem. Sharing with people
who need to be in the program or who already are in the program helps them and
the group as well as yourself.
Remember, it is not necessary to
tell many people at all. You don't have to tell — even when
people ask or pry.
You must tell your therapist, family, and the
people closest to you. It would be unfair to them if you did not
share something this significant. Besides, these people are all vital to
your healing process. You might consult your therapist about appropriate
points to make in talking with your family and friends.
doubt, check with your sponsor and your group. They can provide
the support you need to make safe decisions.
Mistakes will happen.
All addicts tell someone they later wish they had not told. It is okay to
make a mistake.
Number 3 — Avoiding The Extremes
in doubt, check with your therapist, your sponsor, or a group member.
Living in the extremes is part of the old addictive mold that the Big Book of
A.A. calls "cunning and baffling." Addicts and co-addicts need
ongoing input from others to keep in balance and as a check on their own deal.
clear about your needs. Many addicts emphasized that recovery offers
human and spiritual resources to help people understand what they need and want.
Take care of your basic needs of hunger, rest, and support.
balance an important goal. Figure out boundaries that help you
maintain balance. Make those boundaries your priority.
to do kind things for yourself. One addict told us, "Now I
see a better way: we need to be more gentle with ourselves."
self-awareness. Be an observer of yourself by using meetings, journals,
Work on the old hurts. Your feelings
will become important guides to the balance you need.
if." At first, not being in the extremes will seem awkward
and unrewarding. In order to distance yourself from your fear, pretend that
this is okay. Ask your sponsor about the Third Step.
cyclic, destructive relationships. Avoid partners and friends who
persist in old patterns of escalation. If they are not committed to pursuing
balance, you must take action. Leave or at least separate from them until
your recovery is solidified.
Number 4 — Developing Sobriety
and Healthy Sexuality
Pick an extended period of celibacy.
The top priority for most addicts is to experience a period of celibacy.
Celibacy helps the person clear out unmanageability, to feel more alive again,
and to reclaim repressed memories.
Be patient with yourself.
Gentleness, kindness, and self-care are watchwords. To change after years
of compulsion is a huge task, and you will make mistakes. As one addict
observed, "Don't make self-love contingent on abstinence."
yourself as a sexual person. Sexuality and sobriety are, as another
addict advised, "possible, and not a contradiction in terms... sex is not
dirty and shameful." You must distinguish between your addiction and
your sexuality. Sobriety is about addiction, not about sexuality.
Your sexuality is to be embraced, not denied.
Work on boundaries.
Boundaries give you clarity about your sexual self and help to reduce shame.
As guidelines, they serve as a bulwark against denial, obsessive thinking, and
Keep others current. Always keep others
in your program informed about happenings in your sexual life. When in doubt
or when confronting something new, check it out. Have no secrets, and avoid
Understand that things will change.
Your vision of your sexuality will change dramatically with time in recovery.
You will need to allow yourself that process.
Accept the imperfect.
The search for perfection in relationships and sex cause many addicts to discard
relationships before they recognized their potential. The search was futile
and the losses real.
Number 5 — Beginning a Celibacy Period
View it as a time-out, not an end. A celibacy period
will provide you pace to refocus on other needs. It is not a sentence, not
the end of your sexuality. On the contrary, celibacy will make you fully
aware of your sexual self.
Work through commitment issues with
your partner. The decision to be celibate will affect your partner.
Respecting your partner means involving him or her in your thinking so you can
commit together to the celibacy period.
Get support from therapist,
sponsor, and group. You will need their guidance and help to maximize
the experience. Being open with those in your network will help you implement
Expect that it will raise issues. For
many, this change is drastic and places life issues in sharp relief. Make
this a goal and not a surprise.
Understand that resistance is
typical. You may experience anger and resentment at first.
This isn't surprising. We seldom embark gracefully on any ordeal that involves
significant change and insight.
Prepare yourself to experience
new feelings. The new feelings that emerge will be guides to parts
of yourself you need to reclaim. As uncomfortable as these feelings may
be, they will serve as significant allies in helping you become all you are.
active tasks to enhance the experience. Select a specific step
to work on, follow through on assignments from your therapist to help you accept
nurturing and develop spiritual and sexual awareness, and keep a journal about
Number 6 — Resisting Addictive Cravings
Develop Spiritual Strategies. Whatever strategies you
choose to help you connect with yourself and the rhythm of the universe —
meditation, yoga, or prayer, for example — need to be deepened, strengthened
and practiced. Number one on almost everyone's list is the development of
a spiritual base — a calm center which helps you resist turmoil on the periphery.
feelings. Sex that is about addiction and not sexuality is usually
accomplished by feelings of shame, loneliness, fear, pain, and anger. Always
check for these feelings. Remember that to act out a feeling sexually does
not resolve that feeling. If you cannot decode your feeling, consult with
a sponsor, a therapist, or a group member. [...]
Avoid trigger situations.
Identify situations, persons, and circumstances that can trigger addictive responses.
Respect your powerlessness, and avoid those triggers. Remember, when in
Forgive yourself for slips. If a
slip occurs, turn it into a learning experience. Be gentle with yourself.
Your shame will cause you to beat up on yourself, and that will make you even
Work on nurturing yourself. Exercise.
Walk. Eat well. Rest. Enjoy a massage, baths, and safe indulgences.
Seek out nature, music, art, humor, and the companionship of good friends.
Find time to take care of yourself. Make your living space a cocoon for
your transformation. Buy yourself a teddy bear. You deserve this treatment.
keeping cravings secret. Keeping your cravings secret will add
to their power. When you feel like acting our, go to people you trust so
you are not alone. In general, secrets are about shame, and shame always
makes you more vulnerable. Secrets will keep you from others in recovery.
alternative passions. Seek hobbies, sports, and activities you
enjoy. Cultivate these parts of your life so compulsive patterns in working,
obsessing, or acting out compete with activities and interests that are rewarding.
Alternative passions become new arenas for growth.
your choice. Avoid the feeling that you are a victim. You
are powerless about your addiction, but you are in charge of your recovery program
and your lifestyle. In most areas, you have the choice which can help you
achieve the balance needed in your life. Be proactive instead of reactive
by acknowledging to yourself and to others what your choices are.
7 — Developing a Spiritual Life
Use the Steps.
The Twelve Steps are a proven recipe for spiritual wholeness. Remember that
the program started with the realization that without the spiritual component,
recovery could not happen. Decide that a spiritual life is essential, not
Find guides. Listen to others share
their spiritual experiences and ask how healing happened in their lives.
Brokenness, failure, and tragedy have helped many find parts of themselves they
had not known. Most also started with anger or fear, skepticism, or detachment.
religion from spirituality. Many come with "baggage"
about religious institutions that damages or constricted their growth. Resentment
about these experiences can cast shadows over genuine spiritual development.
Organizations and institutions are not ends in themselves, but are instead designed
to help you have a spiritual life and build a spiritual community. Use only
those which help.
Connect with nature. Spirituality
starts with a sense of wonder at our existence and at the wonders of creation
— other living things, the oceans and mountains, forests, deserts, and weather.
Go for a walk. Watch stars. Take care of a pet. Notice your
body. Play with children. Then connect these miracles with what you
see around you.
Make a daily effort. Key to spiritual
life is constancy. Daily rituals that anchor your sense of stability help
you achieve incremental spiritual growth. Then when leaps of faith are required
and stress overwhelms you, a reservoir of accumulated strength awaits.
ways to promote reflection. Spirituality is about what is meaningful
to you, what gives your life value. Inspirational writing, daily meditation
books, liturgy, prayer, journals, yoga exercises, and letter writing are the kinds
of things that need to be part of your daily rituals. These also help you
make sense out of special spiritual events.
All inner journeys start with an "emptying" of self — a fact reflected
in religious traditions. Addicts begin recovery with an admission of powerlessness
and live their lives according to the principles of "letting go."
Serenity, according to the prayer, is doing all you can and accepting that that
Heal the sexual/spiritual split. Much
damage has been done to sexuality in the name of religion. The result inhibits
progress on both planes. To heal, start by acknowledging that sexuality
is about meaning and that spirituality is about meaning. Search for common
areas between the two. Be gentle with yourself about old, tortuous conflicts.
They are not about you. They never were.
Number 8 —
Make a sexual leap of faith.
Sexual change is gradual, not sudden. You have to trust and believe that
it will happen. (This most often-used phrase in this area of advice was
"let go and let God.") Attempts to do otherwise and control outcomes
will destroy sexual experiences.
Sustain sex with intimacy.
Sexual vitality comes from relationships. The challenges of closeness renew
sexual interest and deepen the meaning of sex.
Talk before, during
and after. Verbalizing, passion, needs, and fears are perhaps the
best ways of facilitating sexual intimacy.
Overcome sexual shame
through affirmation of each other. Couples that did the best emphasized
the strategy of mutual affirmation. Compliment your partner. Affirm
all the positive things you can see about his or her sexuality and about your
sexuality together. Don't stop.
Respect boundaries and
limits. Building trust helps heal the sexual wounds of the past.
Both partners need permission to say no without fear of reprisal or abandonment.
Give profound respect to the other's vulnerability and wishes — even when
you don't fully understand them or approve of them. Remember, trust is the
goal. To seduce, manipulate, or test your partner's boundaries is extremely
destructive. Healing will shift perspectives and boundaries. Breaking
the trust again may lead to irreparable damage.
to feelings. Addicts and co-addicts learned to sexualize their
needs and pain, yet their needs remained unfulfilled, their pain unattended, and
their sexuality stifled. Attend to your feelings. You might have to
begin by just labeling them. With time you will get better at sorting them
See sex as legitimate joy. Abandon the grim
rules you learned that kept you in addictive and co-addictive obsession.
Have fun. Play. Within your sobriety plan and your boundaries, allow
for spontaneity and experimentation. Your recovery principles carve out
an area of safety so that you can risk yourself sexually in new, positive and
Take care of your body. Physical
health is basic to sexual health. Exercise. Eat good food. Sleep
well. Limit the use of drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.
Do these things and you can trust that your body's responses will be limited only
by your mind.
Number 9 — Beginning to Date
first. Wait for your program to stabilize. Take the time
you need to work through celibacy, to develop support, and to understand your
addiction. Most who took this time felt it was the "greatest gift"
they could have given themselves.
Take time to be known.
You have plenty of time. Aim for friendship. Avoid urgency.
Be selective. Only date people
in whose presence you feel most like yourself. If you find yourself slipping
into shame — feeling the need to defend yourself or seek approval —
consider it a warning.
Share you plan. When dating
becomes steady, share how and under what terms you want to be sexual. Elicit
from your partner his or her reaction to this as well as his or her intention
Share your recovery. Tell your partner
about your history so you are not carrying a secret. These are two critical
things to remember here: 1) If it is not safe enough to share this fact about
yourself, it is not safe to be sexual; 2) If you are sexual before your partner
knows your history, it may be perceived as a betrayal when he or she does find
out. If your partner accepts you as a recovering person, your fears of abandonment
will dissipate. Seldom did we hear about addicts who were rejected for sharing
their recovery if they did it up-front.
Do pre-dates and post-dates
with others. Before and after dates, check it out with others,
especially if they have any anxiety. No one does it perfectly. Everyone
makes mistakes. The real problems arise when you cease to share your process.
This is a date, not an encounter group. Acknowledge your feelings.
If you feel anxious or awkward, say so. Watch the intensity, however.
You do not have to tell your life history or share childhood pain the first evening.
Trust should be incremental, not instantaneous. Build up some history with
your date — spend some time together first.
Beware of cosmic
relationships. Intensity is not intimacy. Fast-forwarding
the future — as when, after a very brief courtship, you are certain you
have found "the one" — can be a fix for the emptiness of the present.
Life mates are not determined in two days, even two dreamlike days. Many
addicts spend one night that takes years to untangle. There are magical
evenings, however. Enjoy them. Listen to your intuitions. Trust
history and recovery.
Number 10 — Solving Conflicts
Work for win-win solutions. Shame-based couples tend
to look at all issues in terms of right and wrong, and to see all conflicts as
ending with a winner and a loser. Search for solutions that make each partner
a winner. Seldom is there just one way to do things. Find the alternatives.
the Twelve-Steps. Stop the fight and share with each other what
Step you need to use in connection with this problem. Use the tools your
recovery gives you.
Agree on times to work on problems.
Fighting when you are tired and depleted is counter-productive. Agree that
it's all right to talk about the problem at another time that's acceptable to
you both. Have a rule about times of the day when intense issues need to
Avoid dramatic exits. Threatening abandonment
is great drama, but also destructive to those whose history is filled with it.
Remember, shame is about abandonment. If you need time-out, ask for it.
on the issues, not the history. Shame-based couples do not resolve
things because they keep escalating the conflict by adding in other unresolved
problems. Cut down on the backlog by concentrating on the current disagreement.
cheap shots. Partners know each other's vulnerabilities.
Fighting is an act of trust and an invitation to intimacy. Do not sabotage
it with demeaning, disrespectful, or expletive comments. Support, do not
exult, when your partner admits an error.
Accept issues and feelings
of others. They are realities for the other person, even if they
seem alien or unreal to you. Validating your partner's experiences will
add dramatically to your ability to solve things together.
stuck, consult with others. Therapists, trusted friends, sponsors,
other couples — all can be resources. If as a couple, you have no
one to talk to, you do not have the resources you need. Find support for
Number 11 — Resolving Trusting Relationships
Give a lot of time. This was universally seen as the
most important piece of advice. Phrases like "patience," "go
slow," and "one day at a time," were very common. This reflects
the old Al-Anon wisdom: "nothing major the first year."
willing to lose it in order to get it. Both partners have to resolve
not to give up parts of themselves in order to keep the other from leaving.
If you can fully be who you are and your partner does not leave, you have something.
Fidelity to self is the ultimate act of faithfulness to the other.
self first. Do the repair work that you yourself need, and your
perceptions of the relationship will change dramatically. Most people's
unhappiness in the relationship is about themselves and not their partner.
You have to trust before you can trust the other.
Accept the illness
in the other. Start by acknowledging at the deepest level of yourself
that you both are powerless and fully involved in the illness. It is as
hard for your partner as it is for you.
Admit mistakes promptly.
Avoid blame. Work for honesty and accuracy, not for proving what is right.
Self-righteousness inevitably kills intimacy.
Explore ways to be spiritual together that are simple for the two of you.
the "amends" Steps. Reverse the blame dynamic by taking
responsibility for pain you have inflicted on the other. Do what you can
to make up for it. Use Steps Eight and Nine as a model for daily living
with your partner.
Remember, it's never going to be perfect.
Just as the "ultimate partner" does not exist, neither does the "ultimate
relationship." Accepting human limits in ourselves helps us in being
generous with our loved one.
Be with other recovering couples.
Attend open meetings together. Join fellowships of couples. Go on
couples' retreats. Socialize with couples. Support other couples.
Have couple friends.
Have fun together.
All work on recovery with no play makes for great intensity, not intimacy.
Closeness comes from shared common experiences, including the fun ones.
Remember, play is, in its own way, and act of trust.