There is something so profound in working through the steps in the larger 12 step community. For so many, it is life changing because it is truly a program of action. To work the steps literally requires "work". It means stepping out of our comfort zone in ways that we normally would never have imaged. The beauty of the program is the community of people that have gone before you and are willing to let you go at your own pace.
Al Anon is one of those 12 step programs. In many ways, it is a program on learning how to be in relationship to others around us. The tool of detachment is one of the most helpful tools Al Anon has to offer. Al Anon has a lot to say on the subject of detachment. Detachment is the idea of stepping away when you sense chaos, control, or intensity. A phrase often used is "don't pick up the rope". The heart behind detachment is letting go of control and allowing another person to maintain "their own side of the street". Al Anon encourages detachment "in love" and not in abandonment or neglect. In a sense, it acknowledges that we are not God therefore we will step out of the way and let God be God to that other person. But it doesn't stop there.
The program also encourages us to look at our part or "our side of the street". I believe the heart behind any 12 step program is relationship. So much of the program is about re-engaging others when there often times has been a great deal of discord. In a sense, we detach from the negative cycle / relationship in order to get our bearings in how to re-engage when it is safe and calm to do so. It is during these times that we take an honest account of our part in the relationship. It is only after this that we can really own "our part". This then allows to be ready to engage.
One the most impactful moments is often found in "making amends". It can be a very risky and vulnerable process. Re-engaging with a person puts yourself at a place of powerlessness. We really do not know how the other person will respond. Will they accept us, shame us, or ignore us? This is the real crux of relationship. We cannot control others and what they feel. But we often try by hiding our real feelings or dismissing them entirely. So much of our relationship struggles are really rooted in fear. Fear isn't necessary bad and in many ways it is very good because it helps us access our needs. We need to be affirmed, valued and assured that we matter. But we really can't do this unless we make the first step by re-engaging.
All in all, the beauty of a community that practices making amends is that you get to hear stories along the way the inspire and motivate. Otherwise, we are doing it alone and life is just not made to live solo.
Over that past couple of years, I have thought a lot about resentment. The subject of resentment has been something I have heard tossed around for so much of my life but didn't give it much thought. My thinking towards resentment sounded like this, "So what's the big deal? Isn't it normal?" I have found that yes it is normal and the effects of it are powerfully toxic.
I know resentment well. Not that I have figured it out. Rather, I have lived with resentments so long that I know the damage it has done to me. A few years ago, I experienced pain from a group of people. I felt as though there were legitimate wrongs. I had all the data and story to support the great "harms" inflicted to me. I felt hurt and the hurt was consuming. I couldn't shake the facts that "they" did this to "me". I was consumed with a "how dare they?" mentality. What I didn't realize at the time was that my hurt transformed into resentment almost instantly and covertly. This is in part due to my own character defects. It is much like using a compass. If you don't account for the difference of magnetic north vs true north you will end up off course. In the case of my resentments, I have to account for my own part in the relationship. This is so difficult to do when we feel like we are the victim and close ourselves off to examining our own lives. Resentments can be blinding.
The problem is that holding onto resentments actually feels good for a while. I get to feel angry and in control. It feels good to be mad and hold it against these people. My resentments fuel the drug of control. Sadly, this control is really a delusion.
The reality is this: resentments are like a cancer that metasitisizes unless it gets treated immediately. It is a spiritual disease in that we can't see nor heal on our own due to our own ego. It goes hand in hand with judgment and I am reminded of the verse in Matthew 7:3 that states, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Resentments keep us from seeing ourselves and our part in the story.
The most toxic resentments are those "justifiable" resentments. These justified resentments are so hard to shake. We do in fact have legitimate reasons and they make sense. What makes "justifiable" resentments even more difficult to let go is that you can find other friends to help you justify these "wrongs" because they make sense. The real struggle is what to do with this.
The Big Book in Alcoholic Anonymous states, "Resentment is the number one offender to recovery" (p. 64). The reason resentments are so toxic and a great offender is because with resentment we are still maintaining a delusion of control.
We are created to feel emotions. Hurt feelings happen and it is healthy and normal to feel hurt. The danger is that hurt can quickly and quietly morph into resentment. This happens when we start wanting to control the outcome verses surrendering to God in the process. The feeling of hurt is painful. It is consuming at times because of its painful reminders. The answer to hurt is forgiveness but forgiveness is not so easy to do nor can it just happen. Forgiveness is a mysterious process in and of itself. The worst thing we can do to ourselves and to others is to put a "should" in front of forgiveness. By forcing forgiveness, we are in fact shaming ourselves or others in the process. While, in our heart we are not ready to forgive. I have heard it said that forgiveness is like a winding staircase where we continually (to ourselves) surrender ourselves in forgiving the other person. It is more like a process than a one time act. Again forgiveness is a process and it takes time. The good news is that forgiveness is an antivenom to resentment.
So what do we do if we are struggling with hurt, resentment, or a mixture of the two? First, we have to name our feeling of hurt and that often times requires us breaking through the denial that we have in fact been hurt or the delusion that we can control our feelings. Secondly, try to look at it from a different angle. More specifically, think of that person and their story. Most likely, they have their own story of pain. Doing this doesn't mean we have to be "OK" with what happened but it does help us see their humanness. Thirdly, pray for them. The big book recommends a prayer that says, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done" (p. 67).
Another great tool is making a resentment list. If you are aware that you are resenting someone or a group of people write it out on paper. Then write out the emotion you have around the resentment. Lastly, ask God what His will is for you with our list? This is the hardest part for me. My default is trying to get God to align His will with mine. Rather, this puts us at a place where we align our will with His. The other great antivenom is making amends with this person. It means confessing to this person the resentments you have held against them. The paradox of making amends is that making amends is as much for you as it is them. It quite literally frees you from the resentment. It helps you be at peace with you.
The goal in all of this is to direct our attention to ourselves rather than the other person. There is a great metaphor in recovery circles that talks about keeping our side of the street clean. We are only responsible for our side of the street. At the end of the day, I have found that I have enough to deal with on my own side of the street, let alone trying to manage somebody else's side of life.
Richard Rohr mentions in his book "Breathing Under Water" that we are all addicts. He believes it is a universal struggle. It speaks to our human nature and our brokenness. The reality is that we are broken and messy people. When you look at all the things out there to be addicted to...like drugs, sex, social media, video gaming, shopping and even religion is can be overwhelming. So what does it look like to be in recovery? I believe looking into and working the 12 steps can help answer that question.
1. We admitted we were powerless over addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Godas we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
This version of the 12 steps is an adaptation from the original 12 Steps of AA
The hope of sex & porn addiction recovery is not only being sober but being healed and in recovery. It is a great feeling when you can live life without the fear of some giant monster looming over your shoulder waiting to pull you back into the depths of the disease. The problem is that so often we have already started down the path of addiction and we do not even realize it. While we might have all the right intentions and motives, one still gets caught up in the disease. It is often said that one can make all the promises in the world but when the addiction train is near, you get right back on it. What are ways you can know when we are in danger of acting out? The goal is to catch and be aware of early warning signs. The simplest way is to be aware of when you are not "feeling". We are created as "emotional" beings. Sexual addiction and porn addiction is fueled but us trying not to feel our feelings. Chip Dodd in his book "Voice of the Heart" narrows our core feelings down to eight (glad, sad, hurt, lonely, shame, guilt, anger, and fear).