When our fellowship began, its initial members voted to make all approved Alcoholics Anonymous literature, approved SPAA literature. So, for our primary text, we rely on the Big Book of AA. Our fellowship is still young, but we are now beginning to produce our own materials. As new literature is written and approved by SPAA Intergroup, we will post it here.
On this page:
What is Edging?
Tips for Newcomers
Staying Away from the First Edge
Phoning a Friend
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Habits)
One Day at a Time
How to Do a Written First Step
What is Edging?
SPAA defines sobriety as: No sex with one’s self (masturbation), no sex outside of a committed relationship and no viewing of pornography.
Our experience has shown us that certain behaviors—though outside SPAA’s sobriety definition—can still give us a “hit” of our drug and often lead to the loss of our sobriety. We call these behaviors “edging.”
While engaged in edging, we once again experience our great obsession—believing the lie that we can control and enjoy these secret behaviors. Therefore, as with our acting out behaviors, we asked our higher power to remove our desire to edge.
Edging activities vary widely from member to member, but many of us identify with the following:
- Perusing social media apps and websites looking for arousing, non-pornographic images and videos (sometimes through the use of secret accounts).
- Pressuring, nagging, guilting, or shaming our committed partner into sexual activity.
- Looking in public spaces for people we find attractive, then fantasizing about them, staring at their body parts or following them around. We’ve done this on foot and from our cars.
- Flirting with others when we are already in a committed relationship—either by paying them compliments, teasing, having inappropriate/intimate conversations or “turning on the charm.”
- Creating a list of “backup” partners in case things don’t work out in our current relationship.
- Using non-pornographic media with the goal of arousal. This could include: watching movies/TV shows or sexually suggestive videos; listening to arousing audio; or reading erotic literature.
- Conveniently forgetting to mention we are already in a committed relationship when meeting a new person we find attractive.
- Fantasizing—often by replaying our past sexual escapades or pornographic images we’ve seen (sometimes while having sex with our committed partner).
- Engaging in euphoric recall. That is, to relive our past sexual experiences for the purpose of arousal while overlooking the negative consequences of those experiences.
- Driving by known acting out locations.
If you engage in any edging activities not on this list, include them in your edging definition. Discuss your edging behaviors with your sponsor—or an experienced, sober member if you do not yet have a sponsor. To stay sober, we have found that we must stop keeping secrets about all edging behaviors.
We offer this information to the newcomer so that they may learn from our experience, receive our strength, and gain hope.
Am I a Sex and Porn Addict?
Have you found yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts? Have you spent too much time online for sexual purposes? Hidden some of your sexual behaviors from others? Attempted to stop sexual activities, such as viewing pornography, and failed? Hurt or neglected yourself or others because of your sexual behavior? Have you ever felt bad about your sexual behavior? If you responded yes to any of these questions, you may be a sex and porn addict.
Our problem behaviors include edging, viewing pornography, masturbation, serial affairs, and sexual encounters outside of a committed relationship. We see that these behaviors hurt us and others, and that our obsession with sex and porn underlies these behaviors.
SPAA offers a practical solution to our compulsive sexual behavior: the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. In other words, our program adopts many of the same methods that have helped millions of alcoholics find sobriety.
SPAA’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles that are spiritual in their nature. If practiced as a way of life, they can expel the obsession to edge and to act out sexually. This enables the addict to live happily and usefully whole. (Adapted from pg. 15 of AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
Who We Are
Sex and Porn Addicts Anonymous is an international, inclusive fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may recover from sex and porn addiction.
Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others to achieve sexual sobriety.
What Happens at Our Meetings?
We sex and porn addicts share our stories—speaking honestly about our struggles with addiction and the steps we have taken to find recovery. These stories are reports of actions that worked for us, rather than rules not to be broken. We find that our meetings are a reservoir of collective wisdom, based on decades of personal experience. Together, we stand on each other’s shoulders to achieve victory over sex and porn addiction.
Who Can Attend SPAA Meetings?
Anyone who says they are a sex and porn addict can attend meetings. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop acting out sexually and stop viewing pornography.
How Can SPAA Help Me with My Problem?
We guide you through the recovery process with the entire fellowship watching your back. We have regularly scheduled in-person meetings in various locations and conduct international Zoom meetings seven days a week. From sharing our individual stories, we see that we all suffer from the same problem in our own ways. We understand your problem. Here, we receive the benefits of experience and the tools of recovery from fellow members of the program, and we pass along that knowledge and our own experience to newcomers. Thus, we offer the hope of recovery and the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone. You are not alone.
Tips for Newcomers
Welcome! You may have just attended your first meeting, or you might have several months in our group already. We hope these tips will point you in the right direction. By no means are you required to take any of these actions. They are simply methods we tried that helped us find recovery. As we like to say, “Take what you’d like and leave the rest.”
“Drying out” might mean different things to different people. In general, it’s the process of weaning our bodies and minds off the habitual need to sexually act out. For some, it might mean a temporary no-dating period or abstinence within a marriage or committed relationship. For others, it might mean avoiding those people, places, and situations that might trigger us to act out. Internet porn blockers, such as Net Nanny, Covenant Eyes, and accountability software like Accountable2You might also help. Drying out does not have to last forever, but it may feel that way. It is something done once and never again, unless there is a relapse. This process allows us to pump the brakes on our compulsive sexual behavior and redirect our energy to our spiritual recovery. We’ve found that we cannot gain any significant sobriety or begin our spiritual recovery until we “dry out.”
Go to Meetings
Meetings help us stay connected to our community and to a power greater than ourselves. Our addiction can isolate us, in some cases, literally locking ourselves in a room with porn; meetings break the isolation. Meetings remind us that we are not alone—that there is always hope. Our community provides us with access to countless members who speak our language, share our struggle, and together, seek solutions to our common problem. Talk to members with years of sobriety and strong recovery. Talk to other newcomers. Go to ninety meetings in ninety days. Share your story with the group, but also listen—be open to solutions and support your fellows.
Make and Take Phone Calls
Grab a phone list at a meeting then start to call members. Aim for at least three program calls per day. Share about your day and how you feel. Ask about their day and how their recovery is going. We only found recovery once we accepted that we don’t have all the answers. As with meetings, calls help us remain connected with our program and help us learn from fellow members.
Write Gratitude Lists
All too often, many of us nurse our resentments, self-pity, and fears. Our tendency to hold onto these character defects has led us countless times to escape into sexual fantasy and to the loss of our sobriety. We find that the solution is gratitude. Each morning on awakening, write down ten things for which you are grateful.
Get a Sponsor
If you’re like us, you likely tried to stop acting out on your own—and failed miserably. Sure, we cobbled together a few weeks or months. But long-lasting recovery? For that, we needed to accept that we were powerless over our addiction and ask for help from another human being: the fellowship and our sponsors. A sponsor is your guide on the climb to recovery. They can’t carry you there, but can point you in the right direction. At a meeting, speak to the secretary or the sponsor coordinator about finding the right sponsor for you. Call your sponsor every day. Listen to their advice. Allow them to guide you through all 12 Steps, so that you will gain recovery. Sponsors may not be available to return your call. If you need to speak to someone, call another member or text your sponsor about your urgent issue.
The Second Step asks you to identify your higher power. In the process, many of us felt like we were grasping at smoke at first. But over time, we developed an understanding and connection to our higher power through daily prayer—specifically our program’s Third Step Prayer (p.63), Seventh Step Prayer (p. 76), and “On Awakening” (p. 86 – 88). If you have an urge to act out, or just woke up, you might find it helpful to pray. Whenever sexual craving rears up, and you want to retreat from reality, try these prayers:
God, I can’t handle that thought. I’ll give it to you.
God, please give that person I’m objectifying, their health, prosperity, and peace.
God, thank you for this program so I don’t have to destroy my life with this drug.
Be of Service
A poet once said, “No man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Don’t ask what you can get from the group; ask what you can bring to it. Volunteer for service positions at meetings. If asked to serve, say yes. Introduce yourself to newcomers and check in with your fellow members. Be of service at home. Many of us neglected our responsibilities at home because we were busy acting out. Do the dishes, clean the house, scoop the cat box, take the garbage out. Think of other acts of service that might be meaningful to those you care about and your community. Do something kind or thoughtful for another without “getting caught” and with no expectations.
Develop a Daily Ritual
With your sponsor, develop a daily ritual, preferably first thing in the morning. It can be different for each person, but we suggest beginning and ending each day with a prayer and reading The Big Book (try pages 86 through 88). Prioritize moments in your day for self-care—including exercise, healthy food, good sleep, having fun with friends and family, meditation, and gratitude lists. And, of course, attending meetings and making and taking outreach calls with fellow members. On occasion, we told ourselves we were too busy with our jobs or family to keep up with the Program. But it’s been said that when we’re busy, we don’t have enough time not to pray. Our daily ritual prevents us from acting out and wasting time and energy we could devote to productive and useful activities. Our daily routines lay the foundation for increased stability in our lives, better discernment, and spiritual growth.
Read the Literature
We’re fortunate that we can turn to AA’s conference-approved literature for insight and guidance. We suggest reading Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as “The Big Book”—an indispensable guide to recovery written in 1939 that has helped millions of alcoholics find a new life. Also, check out AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions—a book that dives deep into the basic principles of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA, which are the cornerstones of our program. Both books sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and available for free at most local libraries.
Here are a few you might hear:
Easy does it.
One day at a time.
Keep coming back.
It works if you work it.
Remember, take responsibility for everything in your life. We tend toward self-pity and resentment—often blaming others for our setbacks. But once we stopped living in the problem, and began living in the solution, the problem went away. We hope these tips will point you the right way. They certainly worked for us. Together, we can do this.
Staying Away from the First Edge
Expressions commonly heard in SPAA include: “If you don’t edge, you won’t act out,” and, “One video is too many and twenty aren’t enough.”
AA members have a saying that’s just as true for many of us Sex and Porn Addicts: “If you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later, you’re going to get your hair cut.” Many of us tell ourselves that we can control our edging behavior. Sure, we say, we can stare at that attractive person on the street; one sexual fantasy in bed at night; one sex scene in an R-rated movie; one social media photo; and so on.
Maybe we got away with one look, now and then, for a while. We tried to limit ourselves to the occasional edge like an alcoholic pushing away a second drink. But the time always came when we wanted that second drink. And because the first edge didn’t do serious damage, we thought a second couldn’t hurt. We found ourselves edging more and more, hungry for another high—a longer look, a racier photo, a more explicit video, until we reached the end of the road and broke our sobriety.
Some of us repeated this cycle, again and again, despite promises to ourselves and our partners that we’d stop for good this time. Anything could trigger our desire to edge. A breakup, losing a job, or even some great news, like getting a first date—or no reason at all. The causes might’ve been different but the result was always the same. We couldn’t stop edging even if we wanted to.
Fortunately, our experience brought us to one simple solution: if we don’t give in to the first edge, we’ll never act out.
Sounds almost too simple, doesn’t it? We shake our heads now when we think about the effort we wasted trying to resist the second “drink.” The mental backflips we performed to convince ourselves that another edge wouldn’t hurt, the shame and demoralization when we were proven wrong—it was all so draining.
Don’t give in to that first edge. Simple, but not easy. The bar is there in our mind, open for business, ready to serve up a sexual image or a fantasy for us to drink in at any time. Drying out isn’t a cakewalk, either. After all, we relied on edging for years to numb our pain, soothe our wounds, and escape from reality.
During the difficult “drying out” phase, we had to face sober living. Sometimes we felt the sun on us like never before; other times, we struggled to get out of bed. We paced, pulled our hair, and wrestled with anxiety. Resentments reared up from the past. Some of us felt we couldn’t make it through another day without a bit of relief brought by edging. We feared we might be missing out on something if we didn’t edge, didn’t grab that extra look. Just one, of course.
So, how do we avoid edging? First, we stop fighting it, because our experience has taught us that we are just as powerless over edging as we were over sex and pornography. Fighting it doesn’t work for us. Instead, we admit our powerlessness over edging and ask our higher power to take it from us.
We nip the problem in the bud by immediately picking up the tools of the program when we feel the desire to edge. We pray to our higher power, call a fellow member, attend a meeting, work our Steps, or go somewhere we can’t act out. Each time we choose a contrary action, it’s easier the next time to give our desire to edge up to our higher power. It becomes our way of life.
We found that one day of edging sobriety leads to another. The more edging sobriety we have, the less we feel the desire to edge. Meaning we can now connect with our loved ones and embrace reality. We grocery shop without giving ourselves whiplash from staring at attractive shoppers. We fall asleep without fantasies keeping us awake. We breathe more freely and think more clearly and give ourselves a chance to live our best lives.
Hang in there, and don’t give in to the first edge. Many of us now have months and years of edging sobriety. We are all amazed that our higher power is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
(A chapter in an upcoming “Living Sober” booklet)
“This sucks,” we’ve often said. For many of us, those were the most frequently used words in our vocabulary. We were the doomed glass-half-empty, sky-is-falling, no-good-will-come-of-this kind of people.
We always expected the car to break down, the roof to leak, the benign tumor to turn malignant. That’s life, we thought. Always one wrong turn or misstep away from complete and total calamity.
Of course, real trouble always came. We lost a job, got sick, or a relationship we cared deeply about fell apart. Then we raged about our enemies, our cursed luck, and the pitiful state of the world. “See,” we’d say, “this is the crap I’m talking about.”
We fixated on our problems so much that problems became all we could see. It was our superpower. We would find the hole in any plan, the flaw in every person. We wished our partners dressed better, that our parents raised us better. If only we were thinner, richer, or better respected—nothing, and we mean nothing, was good enough.
It made a certain tortured sense that we escaped from an unacceptable reality into a fantasy world of sex and porn. A world where the performers and sexual partners were always available and ready to offer whatever we desired. They never got sick. Never turned us down. Never complained. What more could anyone want?
So, we stewed in our gloom. When that climate became unbearable, we ran to our favorite strip club or porn site for sweet, if temporary, relief. On the painful cycle went. Our ingratitude, judgments, and resentments fueled our addiction. And we had an endless supply of those.
That is until we found a tool to help us get rid of our unwanted negative thoughts: gratitude. When we’re down, or can’t see the good in anything around us, gratitude is our can of Popeye’s spinach.
By practicing gratitude day after day, we broke our habit of negative thinking. But it took time and persistence. We were building a muscle we had never used.
In our early days in SPAA, we often wrote gratitude lists (and still do). First thing in the morning is usually best. That way, we get our head on straight before we do anything more challenging than brushing our teeth.
Of course, negative thoughts naturally pop up over the day. Maybe someone cuts us off on our commute to work, or a colleague steals our yogurt (which we clearly labeled with our name!) from the communal fridge.
Now, when faced with a problem, we’re actually thankful. Thankful because the program has provided us with the spiritual tools to tackle the problem without losing our minds or our sobriety.
We accept these frustrations as an inevitable part of life and re-direct our attention with a little positive self-talk. For instance, we might remind ourselves that the guy who cut us off might be racing to a genuine crisis, and aren’t we lucky not to be in that position.
Or far worse: we’re permanently handicapped by an accident, illness, or birth defect. We could allow the unfairness of it to torment us, sink into self-pity. Certainly, we could sexually act out to forget our pain. But we’d only be adding to our problem. Alternatively, we could be grateful for the strength and health that we do have, and make the most use of ourselves we can within our physical limitations. We can focus on our talents, and how to share them to be of service to the world and to those around us.
That is an exceptional case, of course. But, for the most part, we face smaller battles in our everyday lives. Here we try to watch out for a case of the “shouldas.” As in, they should’ve done this. I should have that. It should be this way.
We know now that usually when we’re upset, it’s because we have convinced ourselves that someone or something in our life is objectionable. And maybe it’s even true: that the guy who cut us off really is an asshole.
The problem is our resentment and anger could consume us, and destroy any chance we have at happiness, unless we redirect our attention to gratitude.
We won’t pretend this is as simple or easy as throwing on a smile every time it rains. Many of us have found that the hardest words to say are “thank you.”
Saying it, however, becomes easier with practice. We try to make writing gratitude lists part of our daily routine and occasionally text those lists to our fellow members. To help build that gratitude muscle, and lovingly remind each other that the world isn’t just doom and gloom.
Now, whenever we find a person, place, or situation unacceptable to us, or say someone jumps in front of us in the supermarket checkout line, we reach out in our minds to someone or something for which we’re thankful. And we say thank you.
Phoning a Friend
(A chapter in an upcoming “Living Sober” booklet)
We get by with a little help from our friends, as the song goes. We tried to stop sexually acting out on our own. We told ourselves we could pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, but—spoiler alert—we didn’t have much luck.
We’re not ashamed to admit we need help from a power greater than ourselves. Scroll through the contacts on our phones, and you’ll find dozens of lifelines: fellow members we can call whenever we feel the urge to act out.
The idea is pretty simple. Instead of inappropriately flirting with someone or pulling up a porn site, we phone a friend. Call, text—either will do.
Take it from members with years of sobriety, reaching out for help really works. It’s like an off-ramp on the road to sexually acting out. It veers us away from the wrong course, at least for the time being.
What’s more, talking with someone who shares and understands our struggle gets us thinking about our addiction. The steep price we have paid for sexually acting out. The impact our actions might have on other people. By the end of the call, we often shake our heads: “What the hell were we thinking?”
Phoning a friend breaks our habit of acting out impulsively, without taking into account the damage we’ll wreck on our relationships, our committed partners, and lives as a whole.
Talking to members also boosts our recovery. We swap tips about methods for staying sober as though we’re swapping recipes for the perfect cake: from web blockers to meditation techniques. There’s no easier way to avoid making mistakes than by listening to the solutions others have found.
The first thing to do is get some numbers. If you haven’t already, ask a member for their number before or after a meeting. We know this might be uncomfortable. After years of isolating with sex and porn, some of us were a bit like someone who’d lived in the wild—we preferred to be isolated. With a little courage, we learned to open up and let others in. To our surprise, most members actually wanted to get to know us.
The next time you feel the urge to act out, call a member instead. Try not to wait too long. “The urge” is sort of like having a fly problem in your house; it won’t get rid of itself, it’ll only grow worse. The sooner we phone a friend, the sooner we get relief.
Of course, some of us cringed at the thought of calling a stranger out of the blue—even though in reality they were just like us. We struggled to reach out for help and to be vulnerable. After all, we’d emotionally withdrawn from other people because of our shame about this addiction for years.
We invented all kinds of excuses not to call. We didn’t want to disrupt the other person, we told ourselves. Didn’t want to be a burden. Alternatively: we’ll call later when we’re a little less busy—on the list went. We have countless reasons not to reach out, but only one reason to do so: we can’t do this alone.
We discovered that if a member is busy, they simply won’t pick up—no reason to feel like a burden. Many of us are glad when a member’s name pops up on our phones. They help break us out of our emotional isolation and remind us that we’ll always have friends, no matter how far down the scale we have gone.
As we called our fellow members, week after week, something unexpected and miraculous happened. We developed some of the closest and most supportive relationships we have ever known. How many people do you know whom you can tell your deepest secrets… and be accepted?
And it’s not just a one-way street (to stick with the driving metaphor). Every time we call a member, they don’t just help us, we help them. To open up, stay connected with the program, and help each other stay sober. We’re all on the journey of recovery together, and we can make it. One step, and one call at a time.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Habits)
(A chapter in an upcoming “Living Sober” booklet)
It has been said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” No one achieves recovery in a single leap, but rather many tiny steps. Daily habits, in other words. Good habits are the foundation of strong recovery. Bad habits, on the other hand, are like termites, threatening to devour the entire house a nibble at a time.
For many of us, sleep was an afterthought. Something we wouldn’t dare let stand in the way of an all-night porn-a-thon. No matter how much we needed sleep, or wanted it, we couldn’t stop acting out, sometimes until the sun came up. Our sex and porn addiction doesn’t go to bed with the rest of the world; our favorite internet sites or acting out partners are always there, ready to keep us up to all hours.
Of course, we paid a steep price for our disease the next day. We lurched to the shower or the breakfast table like the living dead, craving another hit of our favorite drug—to numb the shame, or simply because we cannot stop acting out. On the cycle went. Another night of sleep sacrificed, another day lost in a murk of exhaustion, too tired to even put up a fight.
That is until we stopped sexually acting out and started sleeping better. Sleep is one of the greatest contributing factors in our recovery. A rested mind is a strong mind, ready to wrestle the urge to sexually act out to the mat.
Sexual fantasies might pop up as we lie awake in bed. When this happens, we ask our higher power to remove the unwanted sexual thought or feeling. Many of us find it helpful to pray for the health, happiness, and prosperity of the people in our fantasies. As we pray, we relax and take it easy.
If the urge is still there, we turn our attention to anything that helps put us at ease—get up and read, journal, or brew a cup of tea. Need a friend to talk to? Call a fellow member. Or hop onto our program’s WhatsApp group, and let the members know you could use an outreach call.
For many of us, the best course of action is to have no devices in bed. Five minutes can easily become one hour of mindless scrolling on the phone. We put our phone in a drawer or, better yet, another room—and bought an old-school alarm clock, if we needed one.
We also watch out for other habits that might cause us to lose sleep and leave us too drained to take action against our disease. We try to limit coffee, cigarettes, and other stimulants that keep us up to those quiet, lonely hours when nothing and no one might stop us from jumping on a porn site.
Too much booze doesn’t exactly inspire clean and sober living, either. On occasion, one drink too many has led us into pressuring our committed partner for sex or a sexual encounter with an acting out partner. For many of us, there’s nothing wrong with a drink here and there, but as a general rule, we addicts can’t afford to lose our inhibitions—or we may find ourselves on a porn site or in a stranger’s bed.
Regular exercise may help, too. In the past, many of us told ourselves we didn’t have time to work out. In some cases, we were right. It was a little tough to fit in a run when we were masturbating all day.
Now that we’re sober, and clawed those lost hours back, we may try to squeeze a bit of exercise into each day. A bike ride or run before or after work. Or a 15-minute workout during a break. A long walk works, too. It might be tough to stick to our workout routine at first, but we’ve found that it gets easier over time.
During the day, we try to limit any “empty” hours we might want to fill with sex and porn. For instance: mornings stuck in bed, video gaming, or mindlessly scrolling on our devices. We probably don’t need to tell you, but falling down the “scroll hole” often leads to anxiety, discontent, and worse.
The temptations are literally at our fingertips. We might have hopped online with the honest intention to keep up with friends and family, maybe watch that one viral video, only to find ourselves swiping through sexually suggestive images, photos of ex-partners, models, and celebrities… and it was only downhill from there.
So, how do we tell if a seemingly harmless activity or hobby—say, playing video games or browsing social media—is actually fueling our disease? We might ask ourselves the following questions: How do I feel emotionally after I engage in that activity? Am I numbed out? Does it lead to edging? Have I acted out afterward? Once I start, is it difficult to stop? And if so, is this activity really worth my serenity?
We also run these questions by our sponsor or fellow sober SPAA members. It may be difficult for us to see our destructive patterns. Or we may have forgotten the cost of our harmful behavior. By reaching out and listening to the experiences of others, we may receive helpful suggestions and clarity in navigating this hazy territory.
Gradually, we regained the countless hours we threw away to bad habits and acting out. With our newly won freedom, we picked up healthier hobbies—ones that recharge our batteries and benefit our recovery. Cooking, carpentry, reading, birding, sourdough making, learning guitar, walks with loved ones—the stuff of a well-rounded, well-lived life. We almost don’t recognize the vibrant people we are today.
That said, we don’t need to be productive every second of the day. As they say in AA: easy does it. Burnout from juggling family, work, and paying the bills led many of us to look for a bit of relief by sexually acting out. It might mean setting those work emails aside, taking a warm bath, or catching up with friends and family. Our goal is to find balance in life and in sobriety.
Once we decided to clean up our act, develop healthier habits and step away from our devices, the challenge was to stick with our plan. We might have had the wind at our backs for the first few weeks of our new and improved routine. But eventually life got in the way—an argument with a friend or partner, a setback at work—and we fell back on our old, self-destructive behavior.
One way to stay the course is to repeat the same positive actions for our recovery day after day. We found it helpful to build a daily routine, leaving room of course for the spur-of-the-moment trip, party, brunch—to “take it easy” and enjoy the freedom and joys a sober life offers. By ditching habits that don’t work for us, and sticking with helpful ones, we give ourselves our best chance at a life that is richer, fuller, and more rewarding than we could have ever imagined.
One Day at a Time
(A chapter in an upcoming “Living Sober” booklet)
“That’s it, I’m done!” we said, sometimes only minutes after sexually acting out. We lowered our heads in shame and vowed with tears in our eyes—never again. We often repeated this vow to our partners. Our days of watching porn and acting out were over.
Yet after only a few months, a week, or even a few hours, we found ourselves back at it again. We doubled down on our solemn vows. Maybe picked up a self-help book or perused porn recovery forums, believing we could think our way out of the problem—and solve it on our own. But we failed to recognize that our best thinking got us here.
Countless, painful failures taught us that we lacked the willpower to keep our promise. It didn’t matter how many times we slipped or how strongly we wanted to pick ourselves up. Some of us knew that one more slip would end our relationship, break up our family, or worse, drive us to the edge of insanity or death. And still, we acted out.
When we have a cold we can’t wish away the illness. We can’t say, “Be gone, flu!” If we want to get better, the only choice we have is to take our medicine. The same is true for the illness of addiction. We addicts may have lost our ability to control our acting out behavior, but we can always choose to take our medicine.
In the spirit of wanting recovery, we arrive at a simple decision: “I will do everything in my power to stay sober, just for today.”
That’s it. No laundry list of rules, no extravagant promises. We found that keeping our plan simple goes miles toward its success. A full year without porn might seem like climbing Everest. But one single day? All of us have stayed sober for just one day—that we can do.
Here is one method that works for us. We remind ourselves “one day at a time,” especially when the urge to sexually act out flares up. Right then, we commit to stay sober for the next 24 hours. If that seems out of reach, we set our goal for the next hour, or the next ten minutes. The idea here is to pump the brakes on our sexual urges before we plunge off the cliff. We pause before we act.
In the minutes we buy ourselves, we take action with the calm urgency of a firefighter putting out a blaze. We might leave the house—to escape the sexual temptations on our devices. We earnestly ask our higher power for help. We pick up the phone and call a fellow member. Or attend a SPAA meeting. As we talk with a fellow member about our common struggle, we may remember the painful consequences of our acting out behavior and the countless reasons to stay sober. Often just a few minutes of fellowship can save us from a relapse. “Oh right,” we say to ourselves. “Maybe spending all day watching porn isn’t such a brilliant idea.”
When we’re struggling to put together one single day of sobriety, this method may seem beyond our grasp. But it gets easier with practice. Eventually it becomes second nature to pick up our program tools rather than chase every sexual urge that flares up. The urge will pass. It always does.
One phone call, prayer or meeting is often the difference between sobriety and suffering. But there are days when obstacles threaten to sink us. Our partner leaves the car on empty; we’re unexpectedly laid off; someone we desire rejects us. We may become irritable or restless, itching for relief. Or we may find ourselves swept away by a tide of bills, e-mails, and deadlines, and simply forget the single most important thing to our health and recovery. Oh, right—our plan!
We remind ourselves of our decision to do anything possible to stay sober over that day. Jump onto a second meeting? Why not. Call a SPAA member? They’d like to hear from you.
“I don’t have time for this stuff,” we’ve said. We’re busy people. Some of us are neck-deep in exams. Others run businesses. The work day is over, but our kid is screaming their adorable little head off in the next room. The house is on fire!
At moments like these, when we feel we can’t squeeze in so much as a text to a fellow member, we remind ourselves of one certain fact: we don’t have time not to reach out. Instead of focusing on the minutes of work or family time we might lose to our spiritual program, we think of the hours we save from not viewing porn or sexually acting out. The choice is ours: it’s reach out… or act out.
One by one, we stack our sober hours like bricks to build a solid foundation for our recovery. We survive those hard 24 hours—through picking up our spiritual tools. And more often than not, the sexual urge that had dominated our mind usually passes like the rain. That is all our urges are: the weather.
For many of us, our recovery depends in large part on taking things one day at a time. We may have broken every promise to ourselves and our partners in the past, but through rigorous honesty and a willingness to go to any length, we learned to say what we do, and do what we say. One day at a time.
Today, we’re lucky to have a newcomer(s) joining us. Welcome! There’s nothing you need to do. You’ll have a chance to share during our meeting if you choose to, but no pressure. Now, we’ll share with you a little about how we got here.
None of us thought: My life is perfect, so I’d better check into Sex and Porn Addicts Anonymous. Some had to be dragged here—figuratively and literally. Others knew they had a problem with their sexual behavior which they wanted to stop but couldn’t. Not on their own. Today, these same members can proudly claim years of sobriety.
We stopped using pornography and sexually acting out. How did we do it? After all, we struggled to stop acting out for years. We wondered: What was wrong with us? Why didn’t we possess the willpower to overcome this awful compulsion? At times, we thought there wasn’t hope. That we would take our secrets to our graves. A solution was beyond our grasp.
To take the first step toward recovery, we had to admit that we couldn’t control our compulsive sexual behavior. We all needed to accept that we were sex and porn addicts. In the process, we learned a very simple principle—the principle of “we.” Meaning we are not alone. That’s how we arrived at SPAA’s door, and how we found a home in SPAA.
Regardless of our race, gender or sexual identity, we learned that the members of this program share a common thread. They understand our problem—from firsthand experience. In other words, they speak our language. They taught us that porn wasn’t the problem. It was the solution—a method to cope with pain and escape reality. Today, we welcome the range of experiences that life offers—its joys and heartaches. We connect with people rather than isolate ourselves with porn and other forms of sexual addiction. We cleared the fog of addiction from our thinking, and in doing so, found a path toward spiritual meaning and fulfillment. We gained self-respect and the respect of our partners, families, and members of this group. These fellow members proved to us that we were not alone. You are not alone!
How to Do a Written First Step
In SPAA, a member may choose to read their written First Step at a meeting. This document is a guide for the interested member.