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 Post subject: SAA does it work?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:16 am 

Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:58 am
Posts: 38
I have been in therapy for 2 plus years. I have been trying to work and apply the recovery nation lessons. But I keep on relapsing and continue to be unable to over-come my major sex addiction/compulsion. My current and past therapist encourage me to attend SAA that I need a group and sponsor. I am so reluctant to do this, so embarrassed and worried. The whole higher power thing and surrendering just rubs me the wrong way. But I need to do something because I am unable to follow through and select the appropriate behaviors.

 Post subject: Re: SAA does it work?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:52 am 
Recovery Coach

Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2011 2:49 pm
Posts: 1626
Hi brianbrian,

Now, don't take offense to what I'm going to say here, because I'm doing so to make you think. But how committed are you to sincere recovery? Looking at your thread, you haven't completed a lesson since April. You haven't posted in your thread in almost a month. So I have to question how actively you are working at this, unless you are doing the work somewhere else and not posting it, in which case, definitely correct me. But if you are not actively working, then this stems from motivation.

From reviewing your thread, my guess is that your approach to this point is primarily based in abstaining from your compulsive behaviours and avoiding those behaviours (given that one of your last posts said that you "made it 5 months and blew it"). To me, that screams abstinence-based approach, which will not work in the long-term. You also said, "But I need to do something because I am unable to follow through and select the appropriate behaviors." But you are not unable to; the ability to do so is always there. Even if that requires forcing yourself through sheer willpower. To me, this sounds like you are not yet entirely committed to ending these behaviours permanently.

If you have grown accustomed to using compulsive behaviours to manage your emotions, you can't just stop those compulsive behaviours without replacing them with any healthier behaviours to help you manage the inevitable emotions that occur as a part of life. The abstinence-based approach does not take into account the functional role that your addictive patterns have in helping you manage your life. Your motivation is probably still in that second group mentioned in Lesson 1, the people who are recovering in order to avoid the negative consequences of their behaviour. And until you truly want change, no amount of therapy, SAA groups, or workshop lessons here will help you do that in a real way.

And if you look into yourself and find this to be true, there is no problem; many people discover at some point that their motivation was not yet in the right category. If this is the case, just reconsider your motivation and why you want to change. What do you want your life to look life? What do you like to do? What do you want to accomplish? What are your interests? What do you care about? These are the important questions to connect with, and these will help you shape the vision and values that will lead you out of addiction...that is, if you choose to follow them. You need to connect to some kind of meaning for your life that means more to you than your compulsive rituals.

To reiterate what CoachS said, I agree that you do not need a group and sponsor in order to recover (which can be a common belief in the mainstream recovery community). I recovered without one. So did many other people here. However, these can be helpful aspects of a healthy recovery, if these are something that you value, so you shouldn't discredit the idea of them completely. The sense of community can definitely be helpful; and as far as embarrassment goes, everyone there would be essentially in the same boat as you, so my guess is that probably the idea of the meeting probably causes you more apprehension than the actual meeting would.

As for the higher power thing, trying to force yourself to believe something you don't really believe will just cause you more problems. There is no reason you need to believe in God to understand the higher power aspect, and there are secular ways to interpret that. This could simply be seen as making a connection to some kind of meaning in your life that is greater than your own selfish gratification. There is no need to believe in God to do so. That meaning could come from connection to community, to family, to friends, to sports,...whatever. The difference is that with your compulsive behaviours, selfish gratification (ensuring that you feel good right now) is the only concern. Connecting to a higher power can just simply mean connecting to something that is more than just yourself...even if that connection still includes yourself (for instance, finding meaning in sports, learning, etc.) But there is no need to believe in God for this if that is not something you believe. And as CoachS said, all SAA groups may not be the same in their interpretation of this.

Similarly, it can also mean that you alone do not have the ability to end your addiction, with your current level of understanding and skills. So, you must rely on guidance, education, and support from others (ie. this workshop, your therapist, etc.) in order to learn those skills and gain that understanding. It is still your own will and motivation that will allow you to do this...but the higher power aspect could equally be interpreted to mean that without help, you alone cannot end your addiction...even though, with further guidance and understanding, it will be through solely your own individual effort and perseverance that will ultimately determine whether you transition to health.

In case you haven't read it before, here are CoachJon's thoughts on 12-Step groups, which should help further.

What Is The Role of the 12 Steps in a Health-Based Recovery?

There is no easy answer to this. Determining the role that the 12 Steps play in one's recovery would be equivalent to determining the role that God plays in the lives of a thousand random individuals. There is no “right” answer. Within our finite wisdom, the only answer that matters is the one that we connect to and derive value from. But unlike religion, the role of a treatment program is not to serve as your moral compass, nor is it to tell you how to live; rather, it is to teach you how to live. It should guide you in developing and using whatever values you may choose to embrace. This is the role that the 12 Steps play within a Health-Based Recovery. If you derive meaning and value from them, then they are a part of your identity. Embrace that.
On the other hand, not everyone derives value from the 12-Step program. If you are one who does not, then choose a recovery path that does not include the 12 Steps. It's that simple. Do this with an aura of confidence, not doubt and shame. Allowing others to doubt your sincerity or potential because you don't follow the 12 Steps as they have interpreted them is as misguided as allowing others to judge you based on your religion, race, age, gender, or financial status. Such discrimination will still occur, but you have the ability to put such judgment into its proper context—specifically, that they are driven by the ignorance of others, not by your reality.

Society's Debt of Gratitude

A special thanks goes out to the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, who provided an initial foundation for those who struggled with such a socially stigmatized issue as addiction to bond together for comfort, awareness, and acceptance. Thanks also to the pioneers of Rational Recovery, for paving the way for those not comfortable with the 12-Step philosophy to feel accepted. Were these perfect approaches? No, nothing is—including the workshops at Recovery Nation. It is all a learning process, as outlined below in some of my thoughts regarding the authors of AA's Blue Book:

While the architects of AA should forever be in everyone's gratitude for such a revolutionary approach, and a pure desire to make themselves and their society better, do keep in mind that what they wrote back in the 1930s was cutting edge—back in the 1930s. With all sociological theories, an evolution must take place, and this is especially true in addiction recovery. So much has been learned about the human condition over the past 70 years that it is unfair to compare today's approaches to then. This is not to say that some of their earlier hypotheses were wrong—well, yes, some were absolutely wrong, but many continue to form the basis for today's recovery community—only that the authors were at a significant disadvantage due to not having the benefit of knowing “what we know now.”. They were making things up as they went, based on their own intuition and experience. Well, that and a recovery model loosely based on another created in the late 1800s. But they did well. Not perfect, but definitely good.

You've heard the mantra, "Once an addict, always an addict.” Well, while such a statement is not technically a "lie,” as a lie implies deception, such statements are not accurate either—not with what we know today to be true of addiction. They may be accurate on the surface, offering a sense of temporary stability and identity, but they are offering the wrong identity for permanent change to occur.

We know this now; they didn't back then. So, absolutely read such books and apply what you feel makes sense to you. But don't make the "elders" of AA into something that they are not. They were people, just like you and I. They were fallible, just like you and I. We, however, have a significant advantage in terms of all that has been learned about human nature and addiction over the past 70 years. We have the luxury of taking the best of their work and helping it evolve based on new knowledge and new perspectives. That gives us a significant advantage in taking addiction recovery further than they ever thought possible.
People have asked me if I think I know more than some of the pioneers in addiction recovery. I can only respond by praying with all of my heart that, with 70 years of observing people’s additional experience to add to their initial foundation of insights, I do know more, as should we all. And my guess is, if we were to go back in time, that would be exactly what the founding fathers of AA would have wanted—for us to take their original concepts and guide the evolution towards a destination that they could never have envisioned at that time.

If it helps, think of addiction recovery as a race across an endless plane. Not a race where we all start from the beginning and follow the exact same path. If that were the case, we would all end in relatively the same spot, determined only by our life expectancy. Seventy years ago, that ending was thought to be a diseased life where addiction could not be overcome, merely managed on a day-to-day basis. No, this is a team race, where each racer continues to chart a more direct path for the next, removing more and more obstacles for those who follow. Such an approach allows all of us to go further than ever imagined previously.

But removing such obstacles becomes a necessity, which is the purpose of Recovery Nation—to help remove more obstacles from your path. Otherwise, people will continue stumbling over the same obstacles that those before them stumbled over. And they will die thinking that they were an addict. They will die thinking that they were born an addict. They will die thinking that they were somehow defective. They will die thinking that they had a “disease” that controlled their life. And such thoughts are all obstacles to making a healthy transition in life.

Over the past 70 years, it has been proven that addiction can be overcome—proven by many. The need now is to get that message out to those committed to leaving addiction behind.

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.

-John Locke, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”

One point of caution before deciding to abandon the 12 Steps...

Before giving up on the potential of using the 12 Steps to help guide you, remember that not all 12-Step programs are the same.
The individual communities and "leaders" of local groups often provide a completely different environment than the one(s) you have previously attended or heard about. One of the great weaknesses of 12-Step programs is that the messages are passed from addict to addict, with many of the messengers never having learned to effectively implement those insights themselves, or even understanding those insights as intended. So, the message gets continuously distorted in the wrong hands. Don't let the health, incompetence, or misapplication of what are otherwise solid recovery strategies deter you from seeking the truth. If you find yourself dismissing the 12-Step program based solely on what you believe the program entails, keep in mind that most often, your beliefs are inaccurate. What you will discover is that it has been the message that has been skewed, not its benefits when applied efficiently. As an example, let's quickly look at the first step:

Step One: We admit we are powerless over our compulsive behaviour and that our lives have become unmanageable.

A potentially unhealthy interpretation:

One of the earliest and most devastating misperceptions of implementing the 12 Steps into a healthy recovery is found right here. More than any other misperception, save for the role of a Higher Power in recovery, the misguided belief that by admitting we are powerless, we are: somehow damaged, incapable of developing the skills that come naturally for others; completely powerless to our addiction, such that we must remain powerless forever or that we have no power to enact real change; and subtly absolved of our responsibilities, all have the potential to do catastrophic damage to one’s perception of their recovery possibilities and life potential. Such falsehoods often have the following impact on those seeking recovery:

1 They offer the lack of responsibility that produces “an excuse” or “an explanation” for their behavior. While this may provide temporary comfort, it destroys the personal responsibility needed to actively develop the life management skills that are necessary to end the addictive patterns.

2 It turns off those who would have otherwise benefited from implementing such steps into their recovery. While some are comforted by their unhealthy perceptions of being “powerless,” others are infuriated by it. They have worked too hard and have accomplished too much in their lives to consider themselves powerless. To them, such an admission is the ultimate blow. The ultimate failure. And because they refuse to accept it, they quit their involvement with the 12-Step program. But again, this perception is also misguided, as such powerlessness is not intended to be an all-or-nothing phenomenon.

A potentially healthy interpretation

For most people struggling with an addiction, you have spent years trying to stop or at very least control your behavior. You have likely tried many things: promises to God, your family, yourself. You may have spent time in a treatment center. You may have read 15 books on recovery, applying what you have learned each time. And each time, your efforts have ended in failure. Or, what you perceive to be failure.

But the truth to the first step is that you’re admitting that you alone are powerless to end your destructive patterns. You have tried unsuccessfully and you are now ready to admit openly that this is something that you cannot control by yourself. Such a perception is not an admission of failure, but a statement of fact. With your current skills, your current values, your current understanding, and your current experiences, you do not possess the power to end this addiction. There is nothing even remotely wrong with accepting such a fact.

This does not mean that you are weak, and this does not mean that you are powerless in all things. What is especially true is that it does not mean that you have no power in your recovery. It only means that you currently lack the power to take yourself all the way through the transition from addiction to health.


The 12-Step program can offer you much in terms of a healthy recovery. Ultimately though, it will be your interpretation and application of what you learn there that will determine its effectiveness. Participation in such a 12-Step community is not necessary for a permanent recovery and in some cases, can even be detrimental, depending on the health of the specific community in question.

On the other hand, your involvement with a healthy 12-Step community can be a stabilizing factor in allowing you to achieve acceptance and understanding of your addiction. Beyond your personal motivation and commitment, there are few better indicators for success than your ability to get involved with a healthy, live (as in, face-to-face and ongoing) support system. In a Health-Based Recovery, your participation in the 12 Steps is considered on the same plane as any other value that you may hold. It is your value. Our focus will be on your ability to derive the greatest value from it.

I received a question from someone via email about the 12 Steps and wanted to share my response. Not because it is the “right” response and I certainly don't want to turn this into a “12-Step bashing.” Instead, I would love insights from others who have used the 12-Step model successfully—those who have used the program to make fundamental changes to the core of who they are. At some point, I would like to develop a detailed evolution of the 12 Steps to use in helping such groups get past the recovery/relapse cycle that seems to dominate many such groups. Until that happens, it is something that should be openly explored in a positive way.

Here is what I shared:

As for your question about my thoughts on the 12 Steps, I will be blunt. There are a handful of excellent 12-Step programs that are sponsored by healthy people who “get it;” who understand that the 12 Steps are a metaphorical guide for the internal work that needs to take place in one's life. Unfortunately, the great many people driving such groups do not get this. Thus, they promote the very misperceptions that perpetuate a society of addiction and a life-long recovery/relapse cycle for the individual.

The great value they hold is in the social understanding and acceptance for issues that, prior to the 12 Steps, had no such outlet. As well, it can provide people with structure in approaching their recovery from addiction. But these steps were created over 70 years ago, in a different time in our society. Tell me what has not evolved in the past 70 years. Tell me what has never had the need to be improved. The 12 Steps are no different, though many who protect them do so with the same conviction as an individual protecting their religion.

But the 12 Steps is not a religion; it is merely a guide to working through addiction. That's it. It is not magical. It is not spiritual. It doesn't need protection. It doesn't need to be validated. It doesn't need to use fear or shame to develop its community. It should simply exist for those who find value in it. And yet, while certainly not intentional, it has nevertheless evolved into a program that uses all of these things at times. Not universally—again, there are excellent, healthy 12-Step groups out there. But such things are reported consistently. Add to this the dismal recovery rate (something that I don’t put much value in, by the way) and you would be a fool to continue blindly following something that doesn't feel right to you and something that you are not connecting with.

The same goes for Recovery Nation. If you don't connect to what is being shared and the style, keep searching until you do connect with something. Just make sure that you give these programs enough time to really understand what it is they’re trying to do, rather than taking a “first impression” and projecting everything else.

And so, if you stay in the 12 Steps, make sure that you understand what it is you’re doing there. Make sure that everything you do is in congruence with your own values and that you do not ever feel pressured to adopt other values to match “the group.” That doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to those in the group, especially those who have taken those steps and produced core changes to their identity. These are very valuable people to learn from. But again, this particular group would be the minority. So keep your eyes wide open and your values protected as you move forward.

These are my thoughts based not only on my own experiences with the 12 Steps, but from the testimonials of thousands. I hope it helps you gain confidence in embracing whatever gut feelings you may be having about them.

“I am an addict and my life has become unmanageable.”

A member posted this Alcoholics Anonymous moniker in a thread and I just wanted to update it a bit to reflect a more healthy, clear approach to recovery. Rather than "I am an addict and my life has become unmanageable"—which may very well be accurate—change that perception to “I have learned to manage my life through addiction."

Perceiving it this way allows you to see much more clearly the role that addiction plays in your life and the areas most in need of development. Also, it begins to erode the false notion that addiction is somehow a natural part of your identity. Addiction is a behavioral pattern that has developed to play a very important role in your life. It is not, however, who you are. At its depth, these patterns can ingrain into your identity to seem as though they are natural, especially when dealing with behaviors relating to natural emotions such as love, passion, and desire. But the patterns themselves have been developed. They are not natural. And they can be changed.

So when you can recognize within yourself that "I no longer manage my life through addiction," you will no longer be addicted. Your identity will have changed. The way that you manage your life will have changed. You will no longer have to see yourself as an “addict” but rather, as a healthy person who previously used addiction to manage their life. All of the tools and experiences that you have developed along the way will be used to help monitor and maintain that life. And only your conscious efforts (or inability to continue managing your life with existing tools—for instance, in the face of complacency or major trauma) will allow a return of such addictive patterns.

Anyways, I do hope that helps, and that you give some thought to what I said about motivation/sincerity, as I really do think that is where your problem lies.


"If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where do you expect to find it?" - Dogen

"Be a lamp unto yourself." - Buddha

"The obstacle is the path."

 Post subject: Re: SAA does it work?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:40 am 

Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:58 am
Posts: 38
Coach Boundless,

Thank you for this, you have given me alot to think about. You have questioned my my sincerity and committment before -- believe me, I want to stop and live a different life, but have been unable to do so far despite a lot of understanding, insight, and more honesty. I have to look at my motivation, much is fear of the consequences, that it is wrong, that the bahavior causes shame, sorrow, and depression. I wanto to be different, but maybe I do not know what I want. My therapist talks about carrer change, life change, but all of these suggestions are not possible at this point in my life. I cannot quit a high paying job to be a carpenter.

I did not realize I have not completed a lesson since April. I keep reading the ones i have "completed" and trying to put them in my life. Should I start over, again, or start at lesson 19 which is where I last stopped? My therapist is only recommending SAA as I keep coming to therapy having to confess to acting out again and me repeating my refrain that I cannot follow through and put everything I now know, including all of the negative consequences of my behavior, into practice in a conistent day to day basis. I hear you that I have not learned to manage my emotions, and that I have done this through compulsive ways, but what do I do about it. I can barely connect to my own emotions and do not want know why I do the exact opposite of what I intended to do. Is it worth i tto keep on trying to figure this out every single day?

Thank you for your concern and insights.

 Post subject: Re: SAA does it work?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:59 am 
Recovery Coach

Joined: Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:56 am
Posts: 849
Location: Sweden
brianbrian wrote:
I have been in therapy for 2 plus years. I have been trying to work and apply the recovery nation lessons. But I keep on relapsing and continue to be unable to over-come my major sex addiction/compulsion. My current and past therapist encourage me to attend SAA that I need a group and sponsor. I am so reluctant to do this, so embarrassed and worried. The whole higher power thing and surrendering just rubs me the wrong way. But I need to do something because I am unable to follow through and select the appropriate behaviors.

I've started to attend twelve step meetings as a complement to doing this. I was also hugely embarrassed to even go there and then to raise my voice and speak about my own problems there. But I would say that attending these meetings is a sincerely comfortable thing to do. The other people are like you, they tell stories that you learn from and they relate to what you say. These meetings are filled with understanding and sympathy.

I once read about a guy that stood outside the weekly meeting of his local chapter for four months until he finally ventured inside. As soon as he entered it was, at that point, the closest he got to being totally relaxed. I wouldn't say that my experience has been the same, I think it's a personal thing that varies, but I do not regret that I started going. I can see where he was coming from.

 Post subject: Re: SAA does it work?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2016 7:32 am 

Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:05 pm
Posts: 22
I would drop SAA like a hot potato
and earnestly pursue recovery for myself
You don t need a sponsor or be compelled to
announce, confess and otherwise retread guilt.
There are loads of alternatives to 12 step. Like here
at RN. There s also loads of counter info that explains why 12 step can be counter productive.
It will hold you forever in recovery.
This is three years after your post. Where are you at now ? Not withSAA I hope?

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