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TOPIC: My Step 2

My Step 2 2 years 2 months ago #71

  • byGrace
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I wanted to share my working of step 2 in a public way to make it real for me and hopefully help others as well. How would you summarize the finishing of step 2? What is critical in your coming to believe that there is a Higher Power that can deliver you from the insanity of your addiction? I am writing this over a year after I thought that I had completed a step 2 for an addiction to pornography and sexual impurity. I have had what Patrick Carnes would call a "Level I" sexual addiction. After having fallen back into addictive behaviors after that time of completion of step 2 previously, I could not feel good that I had completed step 2. In my case, in order to truly believe that there is a power who can deliver me from the insanity of my addiction, then I have to experience this deliverance myself over a period of time. It is not enough for me to point to something that theoretically should work. Examples of such theoretical thoughts of things that would bring deliverance are the act of becoming a Christian, being baptized, going to a retreat, praying or fasting. While all of these can be good in and of themselves, they have not given me the power to overcome my addiction.

So part of working my step 2 for me is to find what works. What power is there, what discipline is there, what source is there that will truly empower me to put this addictive behavior behind me? I have had to try to figure this out for myself and also to some extent for others, in the thought that I would later help others out of the pit. But primarily it had to be for me - what would work for me. It has now been nearly a month since my last slip, and they have been becoming less and less frequent over time. While that is not as long as I would like, I am gaining some confidence that I am on the right track now. With those thoughts in mind, I would like to write out the summary of step 2 with the hope that I can then begin moving on to the subsequent steps of the program. I work my step 2 in light of the faith that I have long professed in my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout my struggles with my addictive behavior, there is little doubt that I would give up on this faith, although of course there is always that possibility. But it was this faith that really taught me and convicted me that what I was doing with my addictive behaviors in pornography and sexual immorality was wrong. So it was really a matter of determining how it could be that I would profess one way and yet live another way. It was a matter for me of how I could live a consistent life before my God, how I could get rid of this major hypocrisy in my life. How did God want to change my life in order for me to live in consistency with His commandments? How was I to truly love Him as He was and not as how I felt comfortable in loving Him, with habits and thoughts that I had grown up with and felt comfortable with?

In pursuing that journey over many, many years, I hope and pray that I have finally found a set of principles and guidelines in my life that will be effective in allowing God's grace to deliver me from the insanity of my addictions. I summarize the principles that I believe to be effective in overcoming my addictive behaviors by an acronym - HEHA. There is a facet of this acronym that is interesting in that this sounds like laughter. And indeed it is a joy that I hope to find in my life by getting rid of this addictive behavior in my life. So that facet of the acronym makes it easy to remember. So what does HEHA stand for? In brief, the H stands for good Habits, the E stands for a good, locked down Environment, the second H stands for the purging of my Heart and the A stands for Accountability. I believe that these are the critical principles for me in believing that there is a Higher Power who can deliver me from my insane behavior. I will expand on them below.

The first H stands for good Habits in my life. Good habits give a stability and order in my life that seem to be critical to my staying on track. For me, good habits include eating good food on a regular schedule or at least when I feel hungry. That means taking time out from whatever I am doing or working on in order to nourish my body. Of course, if I am fasting or there is a truly extraordinary situation, then this habit would have to be suspended. But on a regular, day-to-day basis it is important that I nourish my body. Perhaps this is important because it sets up a pattern of my body knowing that I will nurture it and care for it. Along these lines of physical habits, it is also important that I give my body the rest that it wants and needs and also discipline it with the proper amount of exercise. For me, having at least 9 hours of rest per night works well. This sounds excessive in our go-go world, but historically this is probably closer to what our ancestors had before we gained the freedom to work and play any time of the night or day that our technology now affords to us. The exercise keeps me in the mindset of not being overly indulgent or lazy, but disciplining my body so that I have the mindset that my body is to be used for goodness and not solely for pleasure. Other habits that are important to me, I believe, are to spend time daily reading and studying the Bible. At the minimum I read one chapter per day. Also, a daily discipline is to spend time in prayer, preferably at least 3 times per day. There should also be one day of rest per week, but I am still conflicted as to what that rest means - rest from work of my job or from the work at home or what other kinds of work. So far for me it means going to church every Sunday and focusing on time spent with and for my family that day. Exactly what good habits are should of course conform to the needs of my life, but for me this is what works right now.

The E stands for a good, locked-down Environment. This is such a critical part of staying on my program for me. Usually when I have slipped it is because the pornography has been easily accessible. It took just a few moments of weakness and I am off down the path of regret and guilt and filth. So creating an environment where there is a barrier to the temptations of this world in terms of pornography has been essential. The folks at Setting Captives Free (www.settingcaptivesfree.com) call this "Radical Amputation". It means amputating all access to pornography and being radical in doing this. This is very dependent upon my current environment, my current depth of addiction and my current obligations and responsibilities. I would think that this has to be very personal for each person trying to fight an addiction like this since their current environment, responsibilities and pattern of addictive behaviors would be somewhat unique. So it is, I believe, a challenge to fine tune this part of what works. Oftentimes I only know the details after I have failed. But the goal is to not fail, and so it is tricky. I need to be very honest with myself and very sincere in my desire to do whatever it takes to overcome this behavior. If I lived in a small town environment where there are not any strip clubs and pornographic news stands, then it might be easier to get rid of the temptation. However, there is usually always the availability of the internet with its pervasive access to pornography as well as videos, cable and satellite TV pornography that is accessible pretty much any place. Depending upon the situation, radical amputation could very well call for getting rid of any access to these sorts of temptations. I can make a conscious decision to get rid of these and it can be done. This gets more into the next principle, but I believe because of the wickedness in my heart, it is important to deal with setting up an environment of purity with a great deal of zeal, erring on the side of having less stimulation rather than allowing myself the freedom of access to different sources in the name of getting news or other legitimate reasons. To get more personal with this, I have had to think through these things as alternatives to my current situation, which is living near a big city. There are ample opportunities for going to strip clubs, pornographic theaters and news stands and even prostitution. On top of that there is the common thread of having the internet, cable and satellite TV with all of the porn that is carried in those media. In this situation, it is even more necessary to lock down my environment as much as possible. It is important to keep my environment as free from these temptations as possible. The way that I do this is several fold.
1.) I do have the internet both at work and at home because it is necessary to my job. I really enjoy my job and the information and freedom that the internet brings, but would give it up if I had to in order to maintain my purity. The satisfaction and job benefits that it brings are an incentive for me to use it responsibly, however, since I know that if I abuse this I will indeed be strict enough with myself to give up access to it. The cost would be huge, though, in terms of my job. For filtering on the internet I use the CyberPatrol software. I use this because it can be run in 2 modes. It can be run with either an allowed list or a prohibited list. The prohibited list is the one that is maintained by CyberPatrol and is automatically updated by them. It is a list of sites that is not allowed. In addition, the software seems to have the ability to filter some elements on each page if it deems that they would be inappropriate. For example, if there were some bad words that would denote a licentious picture then it would not show that picture. However, even as intelligent as the software seems to be, it is possible to get around this if I try very hard. So it is not foolproof. And this seems to be the mode that most filters use. But I need something foolproof, because my heart and my addiction are pretty clever sometimes at getting around things in order to feed on the filth of my addiction. So when I need something foolproof, I turn the software to using the allowed list of sites. These are sites that I have put in that I know are safe for me to go to and that I need for my work. Of course, this means that I do not have access to the other millions of sites that are not on my allowed list. But in most cases I can get the information or resources that I need by sticking to the allowed list. And in case I need to add to my allowed list, I keep my password hidden in an encrypted way that I can get on a "need to know basis" - i.e., when I know that I am feeling sane. Then I can use that password to add to my allowed list as needed. I can also shut down all access to the internet if I like, or deny access to adding any sites by setting the appropriate permissions in CyberPatrol and then deleting access to my password if necessary.
2.) As for temptations in the city, I try to minimize my travel by any of those places. I have also set up consequences so that if were to go into one of those places, then I would lose some privileges that I really enjoy. Also, frankly, having to fight the battle on the internet front has taken away some of the appeal of these other places so that over time they have lost their appeal more and more. (Why go there when porn on the internet is so available, says the lazy addict inside of me) However, I know that I must always remain vigilant against these, as they can hold the same allure of forbidden fruit that I have also with respect to the easy access of the internet.
3.) As for cable and satellite TV, that is minimized by minimizing my access to it and having a form of accountability for any charges that I might make on that system, as the pornography access costs money in these cases. So for me, that is a workable environment. It allows me to keep up my responsibilities with job and family and get the information that I need from the internet and other sources. At the same time, it allows me to quickly shut down access to the internet when I discern that I am lonely or susceptible to temptation. I have had to evolve this environment over time, to find something that works for me. It is a unique blend according to my weaknesses and strengths, what I find appealing and unappealing, what I can handle and what I can't handle in terms of temptation. This is no doubt unique for every person to some extent and so everyone has to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling", to quote the Apostle Paul in the Bible. This is what seems to be working for me, but if it stops working then I will need to re-assess what changes I might need to make to my environment. This might mean denying myself access to satellite or cable TV or hiding the keys to my car or whatever it takes to keep a locked down environment, locked down from any reasonable access to pornography.

The third letter is again H, which in this case stands for my Heart. I have realized over time that my heart is full of wickedness and deceit. This conviction has been strengthened after reading books like "False Intimacy" by Schaumburg. The scriptures point out how wicked our hearts can be. And I have experienced in my own life how wicked my heart can be, so full of lust, greed, covetousness and idolatry. Indeed, our society seems to encourage these traits to a large extent by getting us to want more, spend more, lust more, desire more. It is easy to fall into these behaviors and requires discipline and vigilance to keep our integrity. But it would not be a problem to have these pressures outside of me if there were not the corresponding pressures within me. I can easily blame society, but society is just a reflection of people. And the problem then lies in my heart and the heart of others in society. No-one knows this better than God. It is no telling what God thinks about our wicked hearts on the surface. But it has been my experience and it is shown over and over in the Word of God that the Lord is a God of compassion, mercy and grace. This is the heart of the Christian message, the meaning of Christ's death on the cross. So although the Lord is well aware of the depth of sin and depravity in my heart, He has also given me a cure through coming to Him daily in prayer and devotion and confession, acknowledging the wickedness of my heart and asking Him to cleanse me. And little by little He does bring about cleansing. But I am totally dependent upon Him for this. I cannot do it on my own because my heart cannot cleanse itself. It is only through an ongoing, daily relationship with Him that I can find this cleansing, this freedom from my own iniquity in my heart. This is where non-Christians and maybe even some Christians may think I am being overly zealous or a religious fanatic. And if there were not a holy God, then they would probably be right. But I believe that there is a holy, righteous God who cannot look upon sin. And thankfully that same God is a kind, merciful and loving Father who wants to fellowship with me and bring me into His realm of holiness. When I come to Him with the right attitude, one of humility and depending entirely on Him for the righteousness that I do not have in my own heart, then He is faithful to impart His peace and grace and mercy to me, a sinner. I guess the H might stand for Humility as well. However, it goes even deeper than that, because it goes to all of the wickedness of my heart. This is why I am not able to have a totally "free" environment (meaning an environment where I have freedom to take part in bad behaviors but do not because of some inner fortitude and commitment that I have to God). Oh, I may do well for a while in a free environment like this and believe for a while that I "have whipped this thing once and for all". But the reality is that such an attitude does not last and only sets me up for worse falls in the future. I have to recognize that my heart is wicked in its depths and that only through the grace of God can I gain the strength and desire for purity that I need to maintain a walk of integrity in my life.

The fourth letter is A for ongoing Accountability. This is also a key factor in my recovery, in my walk with the Lord, with having the victorious relationship with this God who can deliver me from my insanity that the second step talks about. Accountability is having someone with whom I am very honest about the presence or absence of my addictive behaviors. To be effective for me, this accountability must be on an ongoing basis. A weekly basis seems to be working well for me right now. This ongoing basis for me also means that it is something that I can rely on. I know that next week I will be telling my accountability partner what I have done. And knowing that, it helps me to not do things I might otherwise do. I want to avoid the embarrassment and guilt that comes from telling my accountability partner. My accountability partner is someone that I think that I need to respect. They are not perfect, as no-one is. But they need to have my respect and share a similar belief system. In my case, they need to be a Christian and one who shares a belief in the power of God and prayer and God's Word and in God's forgiveness. I need to know that they will be there for as long as I need them. It would be great to find this in a church fellowship or in a good friendship between Christians. But due to the nature of the world as it seems to be, I have had to find this through a paid counseling situation. In that case, at least I know that as long as I can pay the fee and this counselor is in business, then I will have an accountability partner. This gives me the security to know that I can take however long it takes to get my program right. My accountability partner and counselor will be with me for guidance, prayer and help. I can depend on having him for accountability in an ongoing basis. This is a key part of my recovery, it seems, and something that has been difficult for me to find in recovery groups or relationships through the church or online programs. This is unfortunate in some ways, but rather than lament how it may "supposed to be", I rather am thankful for the opportunity to have an accountability partner that I can rely on in this process.

Now I would like to step back and take a look at all of this in terms of the wording of step 2 and how others may view my taking of the step 2. The original wording of step 2 is "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity". How does my step 2 fit in with this wording of the step? One hurdle that I have had to overcome in working this step and realizing how it works for me is to understand that a "power greater than ourselves" can work both outside of me and also within me. So it is a power greater than myself, but it is still within me. So sometimes it is difficult to know what is of God's Spirit and what is from my own thoughts and feelings. Psychology cannot really explain this because they have no explanation of how God could work inside of us. They want to explain it all through our own psyche. And being of an intellectual bent myself, I have difficulty explaining it. And the first 2 letters - HE - are about my own discipline in bringing about good habits and a good environment. That is really up to me in many senses. It is about how I choose to live my life. And so if someone wanted to debate me about this in terms of whether it was God or myself in making this work, it would just have to come down to the fact that I believe that God helped me in this. It was a joint venture, to be sure. I had to do my part. But the part that God played is critical for me to finding the right habits, the right, locked down environment, and indeed the right accountability partner. This is a matter of belief and gut feeling rather than something I could reason out from step 2. The most clear applicability for matching the traditional wording of step 2 is the second "H" - letting God change my heart. This is something that I cannot do on my own and I thoroughly need God to do this. This probably matches what I originally thought the meaning of step 2 was most perfectly. The important thing, though, is to find what works. And so my working of step 2 is close enough for me, because it seems to be working, and I am thankful for that. So this is how I see my 2nd step in the working of my 12 step program for overcoming my addiction to pornography and sexual impurity. I am thinking that these HEHA principles will be critical for my ongoing recovery and keeping away from falling back into my old habits of sin. I hope and pray that this is the last time I ever have to work this step in this context.


Addendum ... I have decided based on experience to extend this HEHA code to a HEEHA code. In other words, I am adding another E to the set of principles to live by. This additional E stands for "Emergency". That is, I need to add the backup of having a means of communicating with someone on an 'emergency' basis when I am tempted. This is important to have for an ongoing recovery.
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My Step 2 2 years 2 months ago #72

  • garrett
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It's been about 7 months now...how did your plan work? It's been my experience that all my best efforts at control were doomed to failure. Self knowledge and my best plans of relying upon my own strength never worked. Keep it simple and take it easy. Keep an open mind and believe in the program and working the steps to build a personal relationship with a Higher Power of your own personal understanding. You can't do it, He can, let Him. There is a God and you are not Him. Trust in Him and abandon yourself utterly to believe that He can transform you to be the man he intended you to be if you rely upon His guidance to do the next right thing at this moment. One day at a time we get better if we continue to maintain our spiritual connection with Him who has all power. I hope you have found peace, joy, and contentment with who you are today. God bless...garrett
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My Step 2 2 years 2 months ago #73

  • byGrace
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Just an update on how it is working, since Garrett left a note asking to that effect. I have found that what I wrote in my step 2 to be even more critical and correct for me as time goes on. I have had a few stumbles since this writing of step 2, but I believe those could have been avoided had I been more earnest in clinging to the HEEHA principles that I layed out here. In particular the Environment principle is important, along with the Heart principle. I have let myself believe that I am "cured" now, that the worst is over and so let myself not have a locked down environment. Those are the times that I fell. So I am trying to be more careful now, and only unlock my environment (i.e., take my internet filtering off) when I have a situation of accountability around me (i.e., there are people who would know what I was doing around me).

So I would agree with most of what Garrett says. But in the same breath I would say that to arrive at the place of simplicity ("keeping it simple") is a process and sometimes it becomes complicated before it is simple. Someone who read the long note above would probably think that I was making it out to be too complex, etc. If I could go live in the woods, that would be a "simple" solution, but not very responsible and probably not very satisfying to me in the long run. And so, living in this complex world where I need to make a living, be with other people, grow in my relationships and so forth, I believe that some of the answers have to be worked out in my mind and heart and they may seem complex before I get to a simple answer. I think of the process of science where people have to go through many trial and error situations and thought experiments before they come up with the one simple equation (e.g., E=mc**2) that solves the questions they had. While not as cosmic in the large sense (although more critical for my own soul than E=mc**2), I have to solve this problem in my own heart and mind before I find the solution that works. And so the above solution for my step 2 does work when I work it. It is about as simple as I think I will get for my life. And I also take comfort and guidance in the 12 step principle "Progress not perfection". I have made much progress since working my step 2 above and feel that I am justified to be at step 8 now. But I will need to continue to make progress as I go forward and work the steps. And part of that progress will be to take the insights from my step 2 seriously. I hope that a year from now or so that I can write that there has been even more progress. Perhaps even a long, long span of continual victory over this sin by God's grace. That is the goal of my progress.

And one more comment along these lines about handing it over to God. I have handed it over to God many times and in many ways. I hope that came through in my writing of my step 2. So people may say "well, you didn't hand it over to God because it is not working perfectly and God doesn't make mistakes". Yet in my experience, there has needed to be a taking of my responsibility on my part. After all, the ultimate decisions in my life are up to me, not God. Otherwise my decisions would not matter, and so love would not be real. For me, I need to have these HEEHA disciplines in order to be faithful, in order to maintain my love for God. I can say that I love my family, but if I do not discipline myself to do good things for them, spend time with them, use my money in appropriate ways for them and so forth (even when at times I may not "feel like it"), then my love is not real. In a similar way, if these HEEHA principles are what is needed to maintain and grow in my love for God, then I will keep them as a way to show my love for God and grow in my love for God. Some may say that it is legalistic, but that is what I need right now. If I was walking fully in grace and could always be obedient by the grace of God, then I would not have done what I did in the first place. So some boundary making for myself is fully appropriate and what I need in my life. And because of the H principle, that my heart is wicked in many ways, I see no reason to change the boundaries unless there seems to be a very good reason to do so. Otherwise, it would leave the wickedness in my heart a chance to momentarily take over again.

So that is it. I will share more later if anyone else is interested.
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My Step 2 2 years 2 months ago #74

  • jonesg
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Hi Grace,

step 2 is a question, a very simple yes or no answer , per the instructions in the Big Book .

Its on page 47 "We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. 'Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?"

That is step 2, what we see on the 12 step posters in meetings is not the step 2 question but an after the fact declaration or description, but formally taking the steps requires the directions from the Book.

What amazed me about the steps was their simplicity, I couldn't believe they would work.

So I complicated them to the point you couldn't recognize them and thats a good way to ensure it won't work.

One thing that I recall is I was told step 2 doesn't say you will come to figure out or you will come to understand. Yet there I was analyzing it to shreds.

'Came to believe' is what happened by step 10, there was nothing to believe in step 2, nothing had changed ...yet. In other words, the rest of the steps make step 2 come true.
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