For me, the "first drink" is pikuach nefesh
My wife and I were sitting and schmoozing last night. It was very nice, and we agreed that we need to do it more often. One of the topics we talked over was why I believe that my addiction is deadly to me. "Like, really...what do you really mean? How can you possibly be serious?" she asked.
So I spent about ten minutes telling over how one thing leads to another, and how looking at dirty pictures and reading dirty stories would have to graduate to calling women on the phone and that would have to graduate to meeting them in 'honorable' establishments, and that would certainly progress to unsafe...ummmm...'intimacy' in less honorable establishments, and how that would certainly ruin me as a person, introduce both of us to diseases, and ruin the family. She agreed.
I talked of how, when I coast and am not in active persistent recovery, my problem only gets worse, never better. And of how in active addiction I violated every single 'red line' I was sure I'd never cross - it was always just a matter of time for everything to eventually go. I took risks and jeopardized my health, job, standing in the community, my marriage, children, you name it. And most guys looking at porn on the internet are doing the same, and many have lost jobs already. The pain and shame of that is rarely enough to stop the habit for very long.
And I talked about how it used to be so, so very hard for me to accept that it wasn't the last, really bad, 'drink' I took that was the one that got me into so much trouble - but that it was the first 'drink' that was the destructive one. All I had to learn to do was how to not take the first drink, and I knew I'd be safe...but it took me so many years to really accept that the first 'drink' was a real danger; that it was sakonas nefoshos for me. I always used to cheshbon away that seriousness - and got into trouble, over and over.
And I explained why all my hope of recovery and safety is based on my full acceptance of that very nekudah. And how as long as I didn't accept that and truly see things that way, I was doomed to slip and fall.
So for me, the "first drink" is real pikuach nefesh. Even to the extent that I'd rather make a phone call on Shabbos to a goyish SA member than act out, and I'd rather make a phone call on Shabbos than intentionally fantasize, or touch myself in a sexual way, or look up porn on the internet. No contest. Whether Hashem does or doesn't want me too do those things is completely irrelevant, boruch Hashem.
I say "boruch Hashem", because that distinction (i.e. the recognition that it's pikuach nefesh for me) is the only reason I can come up with that He helps me stay sober, at all. I have admitted that I cannot afford to do those things - whether they are asur or not - and ask Him to save me from them. Mixing in whether it is assur or not is the only sure-fire way I have known to cause a 'fall'! Once my little frum brain starts to try to get me to stop specifically because it's assur or because I think it's just plain wrong, I am toast. For I will eventually figure out how it is somehow not 'that' wrong! (Just ask that poster from long ago who asked exactly what is actually ossur about looking at goyishe women in pictures....gevalt. That's what na'aseh lo k'heter means.)
For me, I need to see the end-game: where following my lust will lead me (based on my track record), and then I need to have faith - true emunah - that my slip has a very good chance of leading me down that very path to the bitter end. Like running down a dark hallway or closing my eyes for ten seconds while driving. It might not get me killed, but it probably will - so I do not do it, period. Hey, the stakes are quite high.
And anyone who tries to start foolishly nitpicking whether a deoraisa is docheh an abizrayhu d'arayos or whether me looking at dirty pictures is a true abizraya, and if one aveira is 'worth' doing to stop another aveiro is not on the same boat I am stuck on.
Until I stopped trying to be sober to be good and to serve Hashem, I kept 'drinking'. That's why I do not accept any credit for being good no matter how many decades of sobriety He gives me - the credit goes to Hashem, not to me, for I am working a program for selfish, self-serving reasons: I simply do not want to destroy my life. Maybe Hashem gave me that ratzon and in some way that is 'avodas Hashem"...but that'd be back to the useless cheshboning game again.
Boruch Hashem shelo osani philosoph!
One sweet posuk in Mishlei (16:3) "gol el Hashem Ma'asecha - v'yikonu machshevosecha". In other words, even with Hashem's help, we cannot think ourselves into 'right-living'. Rather, we can only surrender the fixing of our minds and out our main focus on living right - then he will take care of our thinking and make that right, too.