Step 12: Carrying the Message

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Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.

The work of Step 12 can be broken down into two parts: helping others to recover from addiction, and practicing the 12-step principles in all our affairs. The first part, helping others, can be done in numerous ways. One common route is sponsorship of newcomers to recovery. If you’re wondering, a sponsor’s job is to understand the newcomer’s addiction issues as thoroughly as possible and to guide that individual through the process of working the 12 steps. (If you are a new sponsor and suddenly find that you are unsure about how to proceed, simply consult with your own sponsor to see how he or she would handle things.)

Task for Today
Ask your sponsor if you are ready to be a sponsor yourself. Discuss the ‘why’ of his or her response.

Tolerance and Escalation

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We can’t discover new lands without losing sight of the shore.

If you’re struggling to understand how sex and porn addiction escalate, consider heroin addiction as an analogy. Nobody shoots heroin right out of the gate. Instead, heroin addicts ease into things by smoking marijuana or abusing a prescription medication. As time passes, their tolerance increases, and in response their habits escalate. Maybe they start smoking pot around the clock, or maybe they start popping pills by the handful. Eventually, even that doesn’t get or keep them high the way they’d like. At some point, they ‘discover’ harder drugs like heroin, and they use that to feel high the way they used to. At first, they might just sprinkle a bit of heroin into a joint or mix a tiny bit of heroin into the pills they’ve learned to crush and snort (for faster effect). Then, before they know it, and without ever making a conscious decision to do so, they’re cooking and injecting their new drug of choice. As sex and porn addicts, our behavior escalates in the exact same way.

Task for Today
List three things you did in your addiction that you never expected to do. How do you feel about these behaviors?

Stop Listening to the Noise in Your Head

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Shame loses its power when shared with another loving person.

As sex and porn addicts, we can almost universally identify when other addicts talk about the ‘shitty committee’ that holds uninvited discussions in their head, or the ‘negative tapes’ that spin relentlessly between their ears, or the gremlins that live in their skull and scream “You suck!” at the top of their lungs at all hours of the day and night. Those noises are shame, and shame is a driving force in the formation and maintenance of sex and porn addiction (and all other addictions). Learning to recognize, understand, and overcome feelings of shame is integral to our process of healing and recovery.

Task for Today
Talk about the shaming messages that you hear in your head with supportive people in recovery and let them give you a reality check.

Holiday Survival: Daily Check-Ins

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Holidays are about spending time with loved ones and tuning into feelings of connection.

Even for people who don’t get stressed out by the holidays, a daily check-in can be useful. For those of us who do stress out, daily check-ins are an absolute necessity. We need to take a few minutes each day to sit down with ourselves and ask the following questions:

  • Am I feeling stressed out, sad, angry, or isolated?
  • Am I keeping any secrets?
  • Have I told any lies?
  • Do I have unrealistic expectations of family, friends, or holiday gatherings?

Honest answers to these questions can help us understand our feelings and to know if we are vulnerable to relapse.

Task for Today
Do a self-check. If you find that you are struggling, reach out to a friend in recovery for support and guidance.

Mixing Cocaine or Meth with Sex and Porn

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Those who live with the greatest intensity often take the least interest in life.

Cocaine and methamphetamine, no matter how they are ingested, rapidly alter brain chemistry, inducing feelings of euphoria and control. A common myth about these drugs is that they’re not addictive because sudden abstinence does not precipitate the physical withdrawal symptoms seen with certain other drugs (opiates and alcohol, for instance). However, as more than one user has asked, “If cocaine and meth are not addictive, then why can’t I stop?” Relapse rates among people attempting to recover from cocaine and meth addiction are astronomical—as high as 94%. And when cocaine and meth are paired with sex or porn addiction, those rates are even higher.

Task for Today
Think about ways in which your substance use pairs with your sexual behavior.

Our Motivation for Recovery

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that airplanes take off against the wind, not with it.

Even though we nearly always require outside assistance if we hope to heal, the first step on our healing journey is an internal one—deciding that we actually want help with our addiction. Typically, this willingness to enter into the often-difficult process of recovery arises because we’ve experienced negative consequences related to our sexual behaviors. Usually, our relationship, job, standing in the community, or freedom is threatened. Occasionally, our motivation is internal; we just don’t like the person we’ve become and we want to change. It doesn’t really matter where the initial impetus for recovery comes from—even superficial remorse is a good start—as long as the impetus is there to some degree.

Task for Today
Think about why you want to recover. Talk about your reasons in therapy, a 12-step meeting, or with a friend in recovery.