I was once listening to someone compare recovery to a surveyor’s tripod; a device that can go just about anywhere and stand sound on any type of surface as long as all three legs are functioning properly.
At times in the course of my recovery I have had to admit that I just can’t handle certain activities that “normal” people can handle. Staying home alone, for example. Most grown men can handle this, but in the height of my addiction, I couldn’t. The obsession was often such that the moment I had some alone time – at home, in the bathroom, in a separate room, in the car, in a hotel room, in bed when my wife fell asleep – my brain would identify my circumstances and seize on the opportunity to encourage acting out and the associated dopamine rush. Oh, the double life of being an addict! It is exhausting.
In early recovery I found it helpful to just flat out avoid certain things; use of a smart phone, the internet, college campuses, going to the movies, watching TV, going to the gym, being alone, going on work trips, going to the mall, etc. Avoidance techniques can be useful, but the problematic nature of making them the main pillar of a sexual addiction recovery program, however, is that life can become pretty constrained. Also, avoidance alone is tantamount to white knuckling which is miserable and just doesn’t work. Truthfully, for me, simply waking up and breathing can be problematic because I can access my drug any time with fantasy or what my friends in SA circles like to call “euphoric recall.” Even going to church can be a real challenge in my addiction, and becomes a conundrum because I have a spiritual need to attend church and access God’s power through priesthood ordinances.
So recovery needs to be much more than mere avoidance. It is a whole new way of life, a rebirth. And if I’m really working it, then I should be able to do things that I couldn’t do before without risking relapse. Avoidance technique is no substitute for grace fueled recovery. Recovery, the real kind, is like the surveyor’s tripod. It can take me safely through life and its diverse situations and terrains. Recovery can do this, but there is no faking it. So now, when I ready myself for a work trip or a family vacation, or if even if I’m just getting ready for a normal day, one way of doing some 10th step work is to take a look at my recovery surveyor’s tripod. This tripod consists of the following:
- The fellowship. I must be connected to the fellowship of recovery. For me, this means Sexaholics Anonymous. It means making phone calls to other addicts who are seeking recovery, and “checking in.” I’m only as sick as my secrets, and this process helps me to not carry secrets around the way I used to. Staying connected to the fellowship also includes working with a sponsor and attending meetings. I attend in person if possible, and if not possible, then I can attend phone meetings.
- Connection to God. This is my lifeline. God keeps me sober. I accepted this in steps one and two. Since I cannot do it alone, I must remain connected to him. How am I doing this today? How is my relationship with God today? Am I connecting with God, or am I attempting the impossible and trying to connect with lust? How is my connection with my wife? This is symptomatic of my God connection. Do I see God through my children? Yesterday’s sobriety won’t keep me sober today. Recovery is one day at a time.
- Working the 12 steps. The first two legs kind of get rolled into this one, but usually when I talk about working the steps, I am talking about actually going through them one by one with the help of a sponsor. When was the last time I did this? What step am I on? Am I working the steps with a sponsor? Am I trying to do it alone? Am I trying to run the show?
And that’s it. That’s the surveyor’s tripod as compared to recovery. I do these three things, I do them well, and then I can do things that normal people can do and I don’t have to act out as a result. I still find it helpful to avoid certain situations. Being on my phone, for example, after my wife is asleep. Just not a good idea. I accept that I have forfeited, through my own choices, a certain amount of convenience. This will probably never change, but I am finding that God is more merciful than I ever imagined, and his grace is sufficient to guide me safely through circumstances I could never navigate when relying on my own best efforts.
Image credit: Image from page 477 of “Bulletin of the U.S. Department of Agriculture” (1913-1923.)