The program doesn't tell us how to stop - we had done that a thousand and one times - it shows us how to keep from starting again. We had it backwards; before, we always wanted the therapist, spouse, or God to do the stopping for us - to fix us. Now, we stop; and then, in our surrender, the power of God becomes effective in us....
Joining a group doesn't automatically make the problem vanish. Most of us had tried stopping countless times. The problem was we couldn't stay stopped; we had never surrendered. So, the first time the craving hits again, when we get that urge for a fix, we give it up, even though it feels like we'll die without it. And at times, in our new frame of mind, the craving may seem stronger than ever. But we don't fight it like we used to; that was always a losing battle, giving it more strength to fight back. Neither do we feed or give in to it. We surrender. We win by giving up. Each time.
Coming off our habit can be confusing.
"My head turns automatically! I can't help feeding it. I don't have any choice!"
But we always fed our habit. We simply weren't aware of it. So whenever this happens, we simply acknowledge our powerlessness. Instead of either fighting or indulging, we surrender. We pick up the phone, we ask for help (from G-d), we go to a meeting. We even admit we may not fully want victory over lust; most of us don't have pure motives in wanting to get sober.
Recovery is a slow process.
The first time we walk through the stress of withdrawal without resorting to the drug, we discover that we don't die without that fix. Instead, we feel better, stronger, that maybe there's hope. We talk about the temptation in a phone call or at the next meeting and tell all. Telling the deep truth in an attitude of surrender helps break the power the memory of the incident holds over us. And if we're hit with lust again, we keep coming back and talking it out, regardless of how shameful and defeated we feel. We've all been there; we know how it feels. We also know the release and joy that surrender brings as we come back into the light.
Usually we find that our initial surrender was incomplete and we begin to see some loose ends. We discover some rain checks secretly stashed against future need. Like alcoholics hiding their bottles.
"It's her key; I can't throw that away."
"I'll keep his phone number; I may be able to help him sometime."
"I'll get rid of the magazines later..."
In recovery, we simply throw the stuff away. No one has to tell us, we just know. We always knew; we just never had the power to let them go. The Next Test, and the Next... Sooner or later, the urge strikes again, sometimes out of nowhere, like a tidal wave crashing over us. Wham! Maybe it's the first time we feel rejected. Any of countless triggers can do it; it really doesn't matter what they are. We all have them.
"I never thought I'd hear from that girl again. Now what do I do?"
"It's too overpowering!... No one will know the difference."
"A look never killed anyone..."
"Everyone's doing it!"
Often it begins in the privacy of our innermost thoughts, when we're alone, when we're living inside our head and the emotions we could never face overwhelm us. So what do we do? Naturally, we want to reach for the drug again; that's what we programmed ourselves to do. Instead, we surrender. Again. Just like the first time. And the cry for help goes up again: I'm powerless (G-d); please help me!
And we take the action of getting out of ourselves and making contact with another member. As soon as possible. The closer to the heat of the action the better. We use the phone. We make the call. Not because we want to, because we don't want to. We call because we know we have to. Our survival instinct comes to life. And we go to a meeting as soon as possible.
When we first come into the program, this cry for help is, in effect, a shotgun working of Steps One, Two, and Three. Surrender, of whatever sort. That's all it takes, and not one of us does it with all the right motives. When the craving hits again, we repeat this surrender at the very point of our terror, in the pit of our hell. For that's where the admission of powerlessness really works, when we're in the raw heat of temptation and craving. Again, it's the change of attitude that brings relief. Instead of, "I've got to have it or I'll die!" our attitude becomes, "I give up; I'm willing not to have it, even if I do die."
And we don't die! We get a reprieve. Again. For seconds, minutes, hours, perhaps even days and weeks. The tidal wave is spent. The craving passes. And we're okay. We are learning the truth of the program maxim, "One Day at a Time".
But there will be another wave behind it, and sooner or later we get hit again. This may knock us off balance.
"Why do I always feel recovered after each bout and then get caught off guard by the next wave?"
Often, seeing we've stopped acting out our habit for a time, we feel we're free of it forever. This may just be the time it strikes again. So the realization slowly dawns that we may always be subject to temptation and powerless over lust. We come to see that it's all right to be tempted and feel absolutely powerless over it as long as we can get the power to overcome. The fear of our vulnerability gradually diminishes as we stay sober and work the Steps. We can look forward to the time when the obsession - not temptations - will be gone.
We begin to see that there's no power over the craving in advance; we have to work this as it happens each time. Therefore, each temptation, every time we want to give in to lust or any other negative emotion, is a gift toward recovery, healing, and freedom - another opportunity to change our attitude and find union with God. We didn't get here in a day; it took practice to burn the addictive process into our being. And it takes practice to make our true Connection as well.