“We admitted we were powerless over lust - that our lives had become unmanageable.”
There are two types of changes that happen in a person’s life. The first type of change, which we’ll call “first order change”, involves the changing of one’s behavior. The second type of change, which we’ll call “second order change”, also results in the changing of behaviors. The difference between the two is what motivates the change.
First order change is motivated by a desire to avoid the consequences of one’s actions.
So the person changes what they do so the they don’t have to pay the price for it. Second order change is motivated by a shift in a person’s heart that causes them to change who they are. And if you change who you are, what you do will follow.
Changing behaviors to avoid getting caught lasts only as long as the threat of being found out. But a change in a person’s heart is the fertile soil that can grow a mighty redwood that can last a lifetime.
You don’t have to be struggling against porn addiction or sex addiction to have something in your life that you know is hurting you. It could be a relationship, a habit, or a dependency. It might be something from the past that haunts you. Whatever it is, we as people have two main ways of dealing with it. Way number one is to give in and indulge. You drink the drink. You smoke the smoke. You dive head first into the relationship and become obsessed. Way number two is to avoid and suppress. You know the the thing is hurting you so you run away. You substitute other things into the time that you want to be reaching for what you've come to depend on. And as you suppress, a pressure begins building inside of you that you can only keep a lid on for so long until the top blows and you give in again. As long as you fight against what has come to rule you, it fights back. And, because it is so much more powerful than you, it’s always going to win.
But what if there was a third way? What if, instead of indulging or suppressing, you surrendered? Part of the struggle with addiction is believing that you have a “right” to it. The door that leads to step one is giving up your right to addiction and letting it go. For the addict, that means releasing your grip from the addiction. For the non-addict, it means the same. Releasing your grip from whatever it is that you are holding on to because it brings you comfort.
After you surrender, you must step into the light and make your commitment public. Now, let me say this: this may not be something that happens on day one. It might take a while. And, by “public”, I don’t mean you start a facebook live video. Every Twelve Step group has meetings where you can gather with others who are safe and walking your same road. This is your public. Once there, it may take weeks, even months, to finally show up totally and say “I am a sexaholic.” (For the purposes of these posts, I’ll be speaking in terms of sex addiction and porn addiction. But addiction is addiction. So you can swap out sex for anything else.) Once you've gone public, you can begin sharing your struggle honestly.
Just as you have become aware to your powerlessness over your addiction, the door has become open for you to become aware of your inability to manage yourself.
The Twelve Steps and recovery are about more than sobriety from addiction.
Addiction was your way of covering up the things inside of you that you were afraid to face. You're just as powerless over your own defects! It’s through admission of your powerlessness over addiction that you can gain sobriety from addiction. It’s through admission of powerlessness over yourself that you can gain emotional sobriety.
If you’re reading this and thinking that it sounds too scary and hard, I want you to know two things: One, this doesn’t happen all at once. It happens progressively. And two, you don’t have to do it alone. Twelve Step groups and regular meetings with a therapist can provide community and support on this journey.