Fourteen Ways to Avoid a Slip
A slip is the most painful thing that can happen to an SCA member, yet it is the most natural thing in the world for a sexual compulsive to seek instant gratification. Our disease is cunning, baffling and insidious, and is always seeking out new ways to trick us into submission.
Predispositions to a Slip
There is a “predisposition” to a slip that we can’t always recognize, though sometimes it can be sensed by others. It might include being irritable, depressed, unconnected. And we slyly work this predisposition up. In fact, when we have a slip, it is almost always because we talk ourselves into it. Therefore, what we need to do is learn to break deep-rooted habit patterns.
Here are some of the times when our defenses may be weak:
- When things go badly.
- When things go well.
- When we visit our families.
- When we come back from visiting our families.
- When we’re avoiding making decisions.
- When we feel overwhelmed by things — sometimes even the program itself.
- When we’re in a relationship.
- When we’re not in a relationship.
- When our sexual recovery plan isn’t working properly for us.
- When we’re being Secretive, or are involved in anything Abusive (to ourselves or others), or are out of touch with our Feelings, or are feeling Empty (SAFE).
- When we’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT).
Danger Signals to Watch For
Sexual compulsion is a thinking disease and easily gains complete control of our mental processes. It has a way of persuading us that we want to act out even when we don’t. Therefore we have to learn to be as alert and cunning as the disease is. Each of the following danger signals will not apply to every member, but we should all be able to identify with some of them:
- Wanting a cigarette or a drink.
- Compulsive staring.
- Compulsive watching of TV or movies.
- Compulsive shopping, eating, doing crossword puzzles, etc.
- Cutting off communication and starting to isolate.
- Letting go of the spiritual side of things.
- Abandoning ourselves, walking out on ourselves.
- Cutting down on meetings.
- Indulging in Stinkin’ Thinkin’ (What’s the use?; Everyone’s against me).
- Letting our self-image slip. We begin to reinforce behavior that will consistently pull us down. We abandon healthy disciplines: we don’t shave or brush our teeth, don’t do our exercises, don’t make our phone calls, don’t clean our homes.
- Beginning to lie — to ourselves and other people. We have a lot of secrets, including irrelevant, unimportant ones. We don’t want to come out of the shadowy world into the real one, so we need to maintain the “unreal” aspect of it in every way we can.
- Looking for escapes from various areas of our lives.
The Number One Offender
Paraphrasing AA literature, we can say that resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more sexual compulsives than anything else. Because what better way do we know to “get even” than by acting out? It begins to seem a solution, a weapon, a means of revenge. A way to make people see how they’ve hurt us.
Consciously or unconsciously, we seek out reasons to justify a slip. “Our life is turning sour.” “Nobody understands us.” “Nothing is going right.”
We feel lonely and hurt, and begin wanting to get back at people: the man in the street who bumped into us, our bosses, our lovers, our parents, ourselves. Even God. (After all, God is responsible for our feeling so hurt and disappointed, right? Then God should be hurt and disappointed, too.)
Our anger feels righteous, and we cling to it. Nothing is going to make us give it away. And when we note the beginning symptoms of sexual compulsion, they only make us angrier.
We start blowing up at people. Or else we suppress the anger, imploding instead of exploding. On the outside we may appear quite calm and reasonable while inside we’re simmering with pain and resentment.
Instead of finding ways to heal the situations that are causing the distress, we feed on our resentment in a continuing downward spiral. We secretly don’t want to mollify the anger, because it does for our compulsion what lighter fluid does for a campfire. Gradually all the good things about our life lose meaning for us, opening wider and wider the path for sexual compulsion to come raging in, unchallenged.
The Start of the Slip
The process begins to intensify. A mysterious force seems to be taking us over, and we become fascinated by it, slowly letting go of healthy disciplines and slipping into an almost hypnotic state. These are some of the “rituals” we may indulge in that subtly undermine our healthy thinking:
- We begin to masturbate compulsively.
- We go out without underwear.
- We wander around inappropriate neighborhoods.
- We miss meetings we planned to attend.
- We avoid SCA contacts.
- The thought of going to a meeting seems threatening: it’s the last thing we want to do.
- We begin dwelling on past adventures.
- We try on our “acting-out” clothes.
- We begin brooding over pornography.
- We start rationalizing the slip. “I’m getting older.” “Married people have sex all the time.” “I’ve had a miserable week.”
- We don’t want to make a phone call. We don’t want to give the slip away or have anybody taking it from us.
- We’re full of denial. We tell ourselves that we’re not really sexual compulsives at all: everybody does these things, it’s perfectly normal to go out and have a good time.
- Or we have thoughts like, “I’m not like all those other people in SCA, they could never understand me and my needs. It’s my private thing and I have the right to it.”
- SCA begins to seem the enemy. “They’re all so self-righteous.” “It may be good for them but not for me.” “They’re conning themselves.”
- We tell ourselves we’re only going out to have a look. Or that we’ll only act out this one time, tonight, and go back to SCA tomorrow.
All of a sudden we seem to be on automatic drive. Our feet start taking us to places we didn’t mean to go. There’s still a chance to pull ourselves out of the slip. But that feels like the last thing we want to do.
How to Get Out of a Slip
We have to become willing to tolerate the discomfort of a frustrated impulse — an incredibly difficult thing to do. Because not acting out is like developing a new muscle. It feels there’s something wrong, we’re being brainwashed, we’re making a terrible mistake.
Ironically, many of us sexual compulsives seem on the surface to be easygoing and flexible people. But when it comes to changing our minds about acting out, it would appear no force on earth can stop us. Here are some practical steps designed to break through the sexual compulsive’s “whim of steel.”
- Pick up the phone. Don’t tell yourself people don’t want to be bothered: phone calls are one of the ways we all stay sober. SCA is a selfish program, and everything we do in it — including getting phone calls — is for our own sobriety. Try calling somebody with a lot of sobriety. In times of danger it’s more important than ever to “stick with the winners.”
- Get to a meeting. Drag the body, even if you don’t want to — especially if you don’t want to. Don’t talk about it, just do it. Even if you feel you’ll die if you don’t act out. You need to “bring the body” when the mind doesn’t want you to get better. Go to meetings, even when there is something “more important” or more exciting or more fun you want to do. Very subtly your value system will get healed.
- Take the First Step. Repeat the words “We admitted we were powerless over sexual compulsion — that our lives had become unmanageable,” until the meaning begins to sink in. If we really accept that we have no power over our compulsion, we will be able to turn it over — to our Higher Power, to our sponsor, to the program.
- Get an interim sponsor. It doesn’t have to be a permanent marriage. Tell someone you’re in trouble and need help. All you have to do is ask for it.
- Read SCA literature. It can tide you over till you’re able to make contact with another member. It also deepens your knowledge of the program, and no matter how often you read it, there’s always something surprising to learn.
- Read over your sexual recovery plan. Remembering our goals helps us lose the craving to go back to the anguish and confusion we are beginning to ease out of.
- Postpone the slip. Remind yourself you can have it later but you’ll talk to someone first.
- Pray. Pray for help from your Higher Power — as you understand it or don’t understand it. Particularly effective is the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” In emergency situations some of us use it as a mantra, saying it over and over till the crisis passes.
- Break the habit pattern. We can’t get sober in a vacuum. We can’t simply stop destructive behavior. We have to replace it with healthy new activities. Often we have to be as compulsive for a time about sobriety as we were about acting out. Try taking creative actions you’ve never taken before. Prove to yourself you’re capable of a healthy action by taking it.
- 90 meetings in 90 days. A sure-fire way to learn the true meaning of “First Things First.” Making a meeting every day no matter what is a foolproof way to discipline deep habits of “giving in” and self-indulgence — habits so deep they seem our true selves rather than the voice of our illness.
- Deep breathing. If you feel a panic attack coming on, try taking slow deep breaths until sanity begins to return. Try other healing physical activities like soaking in a hot bath or looking in a mirror and saying “I love you”.
- Become willing. Open your mind to the possibility of giving up the slip, rather than giving in to it. It will feel that there’s no way you can break the power of your own will. There is. But it can only be done by taking a positive action. Willingness is action. Remember: There is hope, there is a future.
- Think the slip through. Ask yourself, Will you really get what you want if you go through with this? Don’t dwell on how exciting it’s going to be, but remind yourself of the misery that inevitably has to follow.
- Accept that you are a Sexual Compulsive. Don’t blame yourself for wanting a slip. But don’t give in to it, either.
Most of us sexual compulsives have a profound fear of commitment of any kind, because the disease in us is so threatened by it. Little by little, by going to meetings and working the program, we accept the idea that “I Am Responsible” — first for small things like getting chairs arranged or put away. Then for holding office. Then for carrying the message to others. And then — slowly, subtly, and usually without our knowing how it happened — we discover that for the first time we are taking responsibility for our own lives.
What to Do If You’ve Had a Slip
The Responsibility of the Slip. It isn’t the end of the world. The slip may have been the very thing we needed to finally let go. But we have to accept responsibility for it. The slip didn’t happen to somebody else. It wasn’t anybody else’s fault. We allowed it to happen because we weren’t working our program properly. And now we can change that.
The first thing to recognize is that the disease wants us to feel guilty and miserable. That way we have little choice but to continue acting out — to numb the pain of our own self-hate. We have to short-circuit the tendency to isolate from the very people who can help us.
When any of us has a slip, we have it for all of us. And when we recover from the slip, we recover for all of us. The way to work our way out of the agony is to share it, to reconnect with the program in as many ways as possible. And deeper than before.
Get to a telephone as quickly as you can and tell somebody what happened. The worst thing you can do is hold it in, and let shame and isolation build up to set you off on another slip.
Get to a meeting. Talk about the slip, knowing that your pain will be shared by people who can help you. Trust the program and the people in it. We’ve all suffered the pangs of sexual compulsion or we wouldn’t be here. We’re not in SCA to judge each other, only to help each other get well.
The Lesson of the Slip. Every slip has a painful but priceless lesson to teach us. We need to review our program and review our lives to see what we were doing wrong. Then we have to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again. We can ask ourselves questions like:
- Do I have a sponsor?
- Am I using him or her properly?
- Am I working the steps?
- Am I connected to the fellowship — going to meetings, doing service, going out with the group for coffee after meetings?
- Do I call people every day?
- Is my sexual recovery plan too severe, too vague, too flexible?
- Am I moving ahead with my life?
- Am I making any effort to integrate sex into my life as a healthy element?
Compulsive sex is a cleverly wrapped package that, when we open it, always turns out to be full of disillusion and pain. By recognizing the tremendous power of the disease in us, we can surrender to the even greater power of SCA’s first step. And that can be the beginning of a richer, deeper sobriety than we ever dreamed possible.
This material is from “Sexual Compulsives Anonymous: A Program of Recovery”
Copyright 1990 Sexual Compulsives Anonymous International Service Organization
All Rights Reserved