For sex, love and fantasy addicts, slips are often the rule for months–even years–before a person ends up with solid sobriety. People usually get to the “S” programs via one of two paths: a vague feeling that maybe they need to change their behavior, or a relatively catastrophic event that exposes them to extreme pressure from spouses, family, often friends, and that can affect their employment and even lead to severe legal issues.
None too surprisingly, the latter folks tend to be more motivated, and often have success sooner than the first group. What they have to lose is clear and immediate. Not that the folks with a nasty bottom have it any easier than the others, but clarity of purpose means a lot in recovery. As Samuel Johnson remarked, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
For those folks with that vague feeling that something’s not right but who have no major pressure on them, admitting powerlessness, coming to believe, and turning it over can be a conundrum difficult to fathom. Just what constitutes acting out? What do I need to give up? Can’t I even…? Maybe I can just…and so forth. Doubt, denial, fear of change, and the ever-present question hanging over any addict’s head: “If I don’t have that, what’s left,” can combine to make for a long slog down the road of happy destiny.
I have to watch myself. I can get annoyed with the people who keep coming back with the same sad tales, the same excuses, telling the same story, and resisting simple compliance with a simple program. I have to remember that I didn’t hit the doors of any of my fellowships until I had no choice. My need for recovery was as clear-cut as it could possibly have been, and yet I still took years to get my feet under me, get some traction, and finally some real sobriety. (Oh, like many of us, I’m really good at talking the talk.)
I have to remember, too, that in recovery, effort is the key, not necessarily perfect compliance with all the things I or anyone else thinks they ought to be doing. I can’t judge, I can only offer support. The pain in the ass who keeps coming back may be fighting for sobriety, not against it.