My first sponsor in SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) formed a relationship with me that included doing step work, but also included other activities not related to recovery. Seeing my youth, strength, and a willingness to help, he once asked me to come to his house in order to help move furniture. Not too much to ask, right?
During our brief activity, nothing dramatic happened, but it was striking to me that we had lived so close to each other for many years but never knew anything about each other—let alone thought that we were both searching for a way out of our current circumstances. My sponsor lived in the neighborhood that’s connected to my parents’ neighborhood. And we often cut through this neighborhood to get to one of the main streets. When he originally asked me to help, I knew that it was close to my parents, but being there in person made everything so real to me. We can’t beat ourselves up over lost time, but it made me think, “How could we have lived so close but have been so oblivious to each other?”
How Recovery Brought Us into Relationship with Each Other
For years, I had run through the neighborhood and taken bike rides with my siblings through it. When I was in high school, I probably knocked on his door and tried to sell him a coupon card for my football team fundraiser.
My point is this: up until our own individual moments of powerlessness that brought us into relationship at our 12-step meeting, we were coexisting without any real connection or tie. And yet, we had a lot in common. We were struggling with the same sin, only in different forms. To think of all the times I went on bike rides to relax, naively riding past his house, without knowing that his life was in complete turmoil is a bit humbling.
In fact, there is a particular cul-de-sac in his neighborhood at which I would often times sit down and pray. Usually, I must admit, I was asking for the grace to overcome my porn addiction. Living in a suburban area, this was the closest environment I could get to the countryside.
An Outward Focus to Our Meetings
This story came into my mind as I’ve reflected on the moments in SAA meetings when as a group we paused and held a moment of silence “for the addict who still suffers.” It’s unclear to me whether or not this is a tradition of AA or if this has been a “tradition” that’s developed in particular 12-step communities. Either way, this pause is to recognize that while community and sobriety are great, there is still unfinished business in the world. It reminds me of petitions that are offered at Mass. We are calling to mind the people who are in most need of the community that is offered in 12-step meetings.
The 12-step traditions adhere to an “attraction rather than promotion” policy, which sort of discourages members from going out and promoting themselves as “addiction evangelists.” Nonetheless, by virtue of our experience of healing and hope, we are called to witness to the world about our recovery. In fact, it’s a Step Twelve principle.
Life is funny in the way that we can be looking right at something but not really see it. This insight into how I had been living in proximity to my sponsor for years, without knowing either of us had a shared problem, has been transformative. In one sense, I feel ashamed. In another, it has made me realize that each “home” has its own set of struggles. We all try so hard to put on masks and act like we have it all together, but recovery reveals what we have been hiding in the dark.
I don’t propose that we become neurotic in our pursuit to transform the world. But we should be more vigilant and less naïve about the nature of society—the truth is, every family has their struggles, whether it is addiction, financial challenges, lack of purpose, job difficulties, etc. I am proposing that our recovery journey makes us more compassionate to the suffering of others, and also hopeful because we serve a Savior who has already done the work for us.
Even more so, we believe in a loving God who created the world out of nothing—is it that much of a stretch to think that the creation of new relationships are a part of His plan, too? Working the Twelve Steps wakes us up to the struggles that plague people’s lives, and that’s not exactly a bad thing. There’s still a lot of work left to be done, so let’s be light for the world!
Have you had similar relationships develop in your 12-step meetings? Do you have any friends who have addictions whom you could invite to a 12-step meeting?
Quarter Joe is a lifelong Catholic and has been in recovery for pornography addiction for nearly three years. He is passionate about the spiritual path of the 12-step model and the power of Jesus in the Eucharist in bringing healing and transformation.