My Recovery Story — Step One — We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (our addiction) – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. Psalm 38:3
My addictions: pornography and relationships.
My recovery didn’t start until I got a handle on admitting I was powerless and I was living I life I could not manage. Just as I was beginning my serious recovery journey my wife of 12 years (my third marriage) left me and divorced me.
I was alone and on my own without a wife or steady relationship for the first time in my life. I was the ladies man. I was a great husband (in my eyes). I just needed a break in business. That’s why I had trouble supporting my family. I’d been bouncing around from job to job for years. I could manage things in my life if . . . I could be a provider for my family if . . . I could stay with one company for more than three years if . . .I could stay married to one woman if . . .
I had power. I went to church. I read the Bible. I prayed. I made myself available for troubled, insecure women to talk to. I could spot a vulnerable, insecure woman in a big crowd with my eyes closed. My manipulation skills were so well-developed that a counselor I was seeing then told me I could make someone believe it was midnight at noon.
My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. Psalm 38:5
I used my well honed skills on the ladies. I divided all women at the time into two categories: 1) those who I wanted to sleep with (or thought they might want to sleep with me; and 2) those who I wouldn’t want to sleep with or those who I thought would not want to sleep with me. You can guess on which group I practiced my skills.
During all three former marriages I practiced my skills any chance I got. I committed adultery during all three failed marriages. When I met someone I thought would be a candidate for group 1 above, I would find out their sign and read about them in Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Then I would craft a persona I thought would persuade that candidate to sleep with me based on the description of her in Goodman’s book. How sick is that? A recovery slogan my good friend Lisa Kratz Thomas reminded me of recently was this: We’re only as sick as our secrets.
“I know, O LORD, that the way of human beings is not in their control, that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, NRS).
I taught Sunday School. I was a godly man. I had everything any woman would want. I didn’t have any problems. No baggage. I just wanted to find out why my dad was an alcoholic. If I knew that I’d be okay. Then I could get back to finding another wife, or a good relationship. And if I couldn’t find either one I’d zone in on any desperate, vulnerable, needy woman I could find and see how long it took me to scratch another notch in my belt. It was a contest I had with myself. My record: seven days from first introduction. I came close to a few one-night stands, but, hey, I was a church goer, not a night-clubber. No notches there.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. From Psalm 51. David wrote this Psalm after Nathan called him out for having his affair with Bathsheba and having his rival, Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed.
This was not the life I wanted. Although I told myself I was in control and I was managing my life, I was miserable.
Did I feel it? No. I stuffed it. I didn’t like myself, but I didn’t know it then. I was pretending. I was faking my persona. And I was so good at it that other people in my circle of influence thought I was well-adjusted. They only knew what I wanted them to.
My turning point
When I saw the 12 steps for the first time, I told myself and everyone at the meetings, “Heck, I’ve done the first three steps, already. (In my head I was skipping steps one and two) I turned my life and my will over to God a long time ago. Can someone tell me how I can start on step 4? Anyone who has any knowledge of 12-step recovery knows Bill W wrote the steps as God was giving them to him. They are in order. You can not skip a step. Before anyone can ever think about a genuine recovery, they must admit (acknowledge, understand, believe) they are powerless over whatever is destroying their lives. But not me. I was smarter than that.
David faced this dilemma many times in his life. In Psalm 38:4 David admits that he was overwhelmed by sin, unable to bail himself out on his own, writing, “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”
During this meeting it started raining. It was a thunderstorm of Armageddon proportions. It was raining sideways in thick sheets. On my way home I was crying (weeping is more like it). I was confused, embattled by my demons, tormented by satan, sick and tired of being sick and tired. I started yelling at God, begging Him for relief. Pleading with Him to ease my pain.
Next: Step One Part II