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How to Clean Up Your Act in Six Steps

Some men feel the bottom rise up and smack them square on the forehead. Others, the luckier ones, simply get fed up with their lack of a real life and decide something must be done. Either way, victims of sexual compulsion come to a crossroads at which they decide they must clean up their act. But how?

Two mistakes are the most common: underwhelm or feel overwhelmed. Those who underwhelm ball up their fists and declare, “I’m gonna cut this out!” And they white-knuckle it for a while, then slip, then shrug, then go back to their old ways, except worse. The ones who feel overwhelmed know all too well there’s a lot more to sobriety than that. A lot more. So much more, in fact, that they can’t get off the dime. Feeling overwhelmed, they take solace the only way life has taught them: they act out.

Here then is a compromise. Not the 12 steps you must eventually climb, nor the shrug plus quick exit. These are a half-dozen substantive but simple steps to get you going and give a feeling of progress. After that, the rest is up to you. (Actually, the rest is definitely not up to you, but that’s something you’ll learn down the road apiece.)

  1. STOP LYING. To others yes. But more important, to yourself. Stop telling yourself it’s just a bad habit, or that no one else knows, or it’s not really affecting your life in any deep way. Stop telling yourself this is the last time, or that you’re doing someone else a favor by taking care of yourself in this way, or that what they don’t know doesn’t hurt them. Stop telling yourself all these things; instead, write them down. Seriously. Then burn the list. While you’re at it, try your best to cut out as much lying as you can about anything at all. From how many minutes late you’ll be to the meeting, to what you actually ate the buffet, cut it out.
  2. APOLOGIZE. You’ll be making a lot of amends pretty soon, if you’re blessed enough to get that far. Meanwhile, start by apologizing. You remember apologizing. It starts off with “I’m sorry I,” is followed by a verb, then an object, then silence as you look at the person you’ve injured and see the pain on his or her face. This doesn’t weaken you, lessen your stature in society or let the other person “win.” It makes you stronger, increases your stature in the eyes of the universe, and recognizes the fact that in the world of the active addict, no one wins.
  3. TELL THE TRUTH, TELL IT FASTER. Not telling lies is one thing. But lies of omission are still lies. Take the next step and actively tell the truth whenever appropriate. No, this doesn’t mean telling her she looks fat in that dress or that Uncle Rufus’s parlor singing stinks. It means trying a whole new approach to life: simply stating the facts as best you know them in any given instance. It’s the opposite of telling lies. Try your best to not think about it before you say it: that’s the right procedure for lying, not (as Nancy Sinatra sang in “These Boots are Made for Walkin’”) truthin’. To help this process, tell the truth as soon and as fast as you can. You’ll find that telling the truth, on average, takes fewer words than lying. With the time you save, floss.
  4. GO TO AT LEAST TWO 12-STEP MEETINGS. Preferably an “S,” or sex addiction meeting. Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous: there are a bunch of them. Find the meeting times and locations online (or write us; we’ll tell you). If there are none nearby, go to an AA meeting. You don’t need to say anything or look at anyone. You do have to listen. We guarantee you’ll be surprised. We advise two meetings because you may have your armor on for the first one.
  5. INSTALL SPEED BUMPS. One of the most valuable things you can do for yourself is put as much crap between you and acting out as possible. The more time it takes for you to actually achieve your minimal acting-out conditions, the more time your sensible self has to allow the craving to pass and do the right thing. “Don’t just do something — sit there!” is an old and revered saying in recovery, and one of the most valuable. Addictive cravings come in waves and you can wait them out. So clean out your abode of porn. Put filters and accountability software on your computer, tablet and phone (contact us if you don’t know how). Redline entire neighborhoods if you must to avoid triggering those cravings. Definitely delete those special contacts, and the back up, and the back up of the back up. Fill up your schedule with work and healthy activities. Give yourself every chance to retouch the sanity within you.
  6. FIND A TRUSTED SERVANT. You can’t do all this, or anything that is to come, by yourself. But you needn’t leap into the whole Higher Power thing right off the bat if it makes you uncomfortable. You do need to find another human being. Someone you can trust, who’ll understand and won’t judge. Tell him about the previous five steps you’ve taken. It can be a friend. It can be a relative. It can be someone at CoAchieving. Look around the site, our email address and phone number are all over the place.

Good luck.

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