* We become less and less interested in ourselves, our own plans and designs, and more and more interested in seeing what we can contribute to life. That’s a tough one for us to swallow sometimes, for two reasons.
First, I LIKE my little plans, thankyouverymuch! I have goals for my life, I don’t want to just give them up, what is this, a cult?! And second, I gave up my sense of self, my own hobbies and interests and thoughts and (again) goals, in a lot of my relationships, and it seemed like the goal in recovery should be to Find Myself Again.
But actually, my plans and designs were often not realistic and not healthy for me. They often focused way too much on what other people might do, whether they were going to recover, HOW they planned to recover, et cetera. When my plans focused on myself, they were made in a vacuum. Like I said, I didn’t really have a thorough sense of myself or my needs or my wants, plus I was often at the mercy of my rage, worry, anxiety, judgment, and shame — and yet I thought I should be making plans for my life in that condition.
I came to find out that neither the steps nor my higher power were asking me to do anything that was wrong for me, that I wouldn’t want to do, or that would harm my integrity. And I always had the option to veto what I thought I was being guided to do. My experience has been that my higher power has never steered me wrong, but I still have the option to resist or refuse — she’ll always go with me when I take off in a different direction.
The piece about being “interested in seeing what we can contribute to life” is a clue here to what this promise means. We have been harmed by compulsive sexual behavior — whether it was focused on us or not. (Just acknowledging that there are folks who are here because they are desperately worried about a child, friend, cousin, etc. who is a sex addict. They may not have been directly harmed by that person’s actions, but the actions still had an intense effect upon them.)
I have found that when I have been harmed — when I am in emotional or physical pain — my focus immediately turns inward. I am not able to give my resources to others, to the world around me, I need them for myself.
(I could also argue that my focus turns outward, to the person or people or behavior or whatever that is harming me, because I start obsessing about how to keep them from harming me more. But my experience has been that that seemingly external focus is also completely about myself. It’s never really about them as people, it’s about them as they relate to me and affect me.)
What this promise is telling me is that:
(1) In committing to following the guidance of something trustworthy outside myself, I am taking an important step toward gradually moving my focus from my own pain to something external yet healthy.
(2) As I put the decision of the third step into action, I will slowly become able to make really positive, amazing contributions to the world around me. In my pain, I am reacting to what others do or may do. In my recovery, I am acting on the guidance I receive, acting out of healthy and positive motives, in a way that is good for both me and the world around me.
The other thing is that working the steps DID lead me back to myself. It is a gradual and life-long process of “uncovering, discovering, and discarding what doesn’t work”. In the process, I’ve discovered my boundaries; my self-esteem; my love for myself and the love others and my higher power have for me; my integrity; my inner peace; and a lot of other more specific things about myself that I’ll write a little about separately.
It’s one of the paradoxes of working the steps. I couldn’t find myself by using my self-will; it was like trying to figure out which of the air molecules around me were mine. There was too much to sort through. I might have been able to do it eventually, but it was taking for-freaking-ever. I found myself by focusing my self-will on working my program… on getting closer and closer to my higher power’s will for me and understanding of me.