I am a member of Daily Strength online forum that helps people with various health issues, and I love this site. One of the most active members on my Sex and Pornography Addiction support groups has asked a question about what different people considered to be a slip up in recovery. It is a really good question, and I wanted to share my response, especially since in the process of responding I have learned something new about my own recovery. So here it is:
I actually think this is a sketchy subject to discuss, even though I personally have thought about it a lot. In my 12 step work I’ve met many men with completely different definitions of Sex Addiction and Sobriety. (I go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings where you are allowed to define your own sobriety). Sometimes I feel like some of these men are cheating themselves, but choose to think that they are just growing. It was certainly this way for me. Some of the stuff that I considered to be sobriety in the beginning of my recovery, I would not consider to be sobriety now. That being said, I would not be able to get this far in my recovery if I have not taking those “baby steps” (which felt like huge jumps to me at the time).
I have shared my current definition of sobriety somewhere else on my blog, and certainly don’t want to make a secret out of it, but I wanted to say something else in this post. For me, there is simple no right and wrong way to achieve sobriety. Sobriety, in my opinion, is an ever evolving term. Like a horizon, it moves away from me as I keep on walking towards it. It might sound discouraging, but it is not, because at any time all I have to do is turn around and look back, to see just how far I’ve come.
In a way this reminds me of a common argument that I’ve heard while I was in the armed forces – which branch of service is better? To me this never made sense. For me there were simply those who chose to serve their country and those who didn’t. I think this is the same way with sobriety. There are those who choose to walk towards the light in their lives, and those who don’t. We all have this little voice inside of us that will tell us if we are going in the right direction or not. I personally think that this voice is the voice of God (the way that I understand God) but I don’t want to push my beliefs onto anybody. Some people choose to think of it as intuition, others as activity of our prefrontal cortex, but regardless of what we choose to believe, we all know it is there.
So to me the important part is to listen to your inner voice, and to use it as a compass on your way to recovery. Sobriety, like the life itself, is a journey and not a destination. We all have heard this saying before, but very few take time to really think about it.
The sobriety date and the definition of sobriety are just tools that I used to monitor my progress. My goal is not to remain sober for x number of days, but rather to go through each day learning to be my personal best. I do keep track of my sobriety, but I don’t make it the goal in itself. I believe the amount of sobriety is just a consequence of my daily choices and actions. If I keep making the right choices the sobriety will come.
This is ironic because just a few days ago I had a small incident that I was not sure if I should consider a slip up. I was online, and instead of doing my homework like I intended to, or going to sleep since I felt really tiered, I choose to go on some social media sites, that used to be my stepping stone into getting in trouble. I only spent may be 10 minutes on the site, and all I did was to look through some of the most popular articles on this site. But even though this sounds innocent, in the back of my mind I felt like I lost control. The thing is, this site provides a small image preview of what the article is about, and I felt myself hoping that I would sneak a peek at something “exciting” (code word for something I can lust over). On that day I just reached my three weeks of sobriety, and really didn’t want to give that up. I was actually thinking to make a post out of this on Daily Strength, asking if I should consider it a slip up, but I never got around to do it.(I really didn’t want to give it up 🙂
Writing this response, however, made me realize that I was far enough in my journey to sobriety to consider this a slip up, and to feel OK about it. I have learned something from this experience, I keep on making progress, and that is all that matters. X number of days of sobriety (my current goal is 30) will happen on its own.
P.S. I feel that I must give credit for some of the things that I’ve said to where it rightfully belongs; that is to Thomas M. Sterner the author of “The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life” ,
Also special thanks to the asker of this question for raising this issue. I feel that God has spoken to me through you.