Sobriety is like Breathing; Recovery is like Living
Someone asked Dov:
Dov, they say you've been clean in SA for 13 years. Does that mean that you did not make even ONE mistake?
No, it does not mean that. I use the sobriety definition of SA as explained to me by my sponsor and others. My sobriety date only means that by the grace (chessed chinam) of Hashem, I have never masturbated or been with anyone other than my wife since that date. It is truly a very narrow definition of sobriety and does not measure myrecovery in any reliable way. I do not believe it is meant to. That having been said, the value of a sobriety date is in the fact that it doesn't happen by holding one's breath... that is, one cannot be sober for a very long time unless there is also recovery. And as recovery does not progress while a person is actively using their drug, sobriety is indispensable. To me, sobriety is like breathing - and recovery is like living.
Given the nature of this particular addiction/drug - the natural capacity to lust and be sexual - it is not likely that anyone will actually stay sober for very long without active recovery. For me, that means meetings, sponsorship (service), and working (not just studying) the steps. Hence the value people place on long-term sobriety. That's what SA calls "progressive freedom (or the more goyishe word: 'victory') over lust." It is assumed that an addict in recovery either progresses or regresses in their freedom from lust as a motivation in their life. There does not seem to be much room for stagnation. Maybe there is room for a bit of it (we have all coasted occasionally), but not much... and we never know how much slack we will be 'given'. No worries though, cuz if we are lucky, lust will soon kick us in the behind unceremoniously and help us right back into serious recovery.
I have lusted many times, have looked at pornography a number of times, have done many things which were part of my acting-out behaviors many times over the years - in sobriety. The point is, that I reacted to that by: making my calls for help to people and to my G-d earlier and earlier which helped me learn to surrender earlier and earlier; using the slips as opportunities to get more aware of my powerlessness (living a better 1st step); by admitting freely in every meeting I went to that I was not perfect and indeed having a problem and exactly what behaviors it was; and by not giving up. When I asked my sponsor if I should change my sobriety date he would say, "You want to define your own sobriety? Why bother? If you keep playing around you will lose your sobriety pretty soon anyway! And if you go back to zero, you will probably figure you might as well try your hand at some serious acting out - if you are at zero, anyway!" That helped me come to my senses, alright!
My sobriety is far from a perfect one. But Hashem has helped me remember how precious sobriety is to me today. He has been helping me run from risky curiosity and other thoughts, talk, and actions that might damage my precious sobriety. And today our life is far better than I could have ever dreamed - for me and my entire family - without any other motivation than recovery. I ask Him to help me stay sober so that I can continue to recover (and live) and to help me stay in recovery so that I can remain sober (and not die). And my freedom from lust is increasing, it seems, though I am obviously still an addict and my life still cannot work while I pursue lust.