Out or Acting in Recovery: The Choice is Yours
recovering person we will call, "Jonas" shares his
recovery journey here in this lesson. It is helpful to process what you did the last
time you acted out. Be specific, but not graphic.
Break it into small steps. The following is his
example. He wrote in color to describe the
feeling as he was in the state of mind.
My Trip to
I went to Canada and
felt rushed to get there.
While driving I had time to think about the last
time I acted out there.
(alternating between worry, self pity and euphoric
tired from driving and wondered why my wife doesn't
help more with
Felt like wanting to make love, but wife isn't going
to want to. (assuming, pre-judging)
saw a convenience store and thought I should get
some gas. (worrying about gas prices,
thinking subliminally, "I wonder if they have a
'bad' magazine section."
I drive past it.
turn around and drive to the store, thinking I
should get fuel as I am not sure when I will find
another gas station.
up and then go into pay (not paying outside, but
unconsciously wanting to go into the store)
can fell my adrenaline go up)
think, "why am I doing this?" I counter with
"what, I am just going inside to pay. I am not
sinning" (but in my heart I am, because this is
not a passing thought, but an intent to lust.
I find no "bad"
magazine, but there is a gal dressed for summer. I
avoid looking, but feel the urge. I am not praying
go to the car and drive, feeling bad that I had
these feelings. Feeling like I am in cycle.
Feeling depressed, "why am I so triggered."
"Can't I be normal." (Self pity, resentment
that I can't be like other people, resentment that
God is not "helping me.") I am still holding onto
the image that I saw in the store inadvertently.
Yes, I didn't try to look, but it sticks in my mind.
Three hours later, I am
unpacking to the motel I am staying in.
I look for items that might
suggest that there might be porn on the TV.
I am not trying to act out, but my radar is on.
(When I am not in cycle, I don't even think about
this. But when I am in cycle my radar is on.)
radar is on wondering what the couple might be doing
next door, or even if there is a couple.
I think about going to
the pool. Maybe there is something there to see.
(I think, I better not go. I counter with,
"for Pete's sake, you mean you
will never go to a pool again. Is this recovery?"
I think that there is no harm in swimming. This
isn't a sin. I am not even going there to act out,
but to just relax. Self care is good. (Self care is
good, but if I am in cycle, no amount of
self-justification is going to work. What I am
fooling myself. I am in cycle and I need to call
someone in the program, come up with a 24 hour plan,
read some AA literature, read the Bible, pray, and
to remember what is the worst that could happen.
Think on this. Think of my salvation and where
'just a little acting out is going to get me.'
There are two options I
can take. I will list what happens with both.
"Steps toward Acting Out"
I go to
the pool. I soak in some images, "inadvertently" I
start to pamper myself with food, drink and the sun
which makes my body too much into itself
I let my
back to the motel room. I check out TV to see what
about blocking the channels, but want to see if
there are any there. I am feeling a bit desperate.
I feel like I can't call
anyone, because I am in an embarrassing state
physically, mentally and emotionally.
"I want what I want and no
one is going to stop me."
I end up
watching a little snippet of something I shouldn't
see. (I have acted out at least mentally and
emotionally and I feel guilty and ashamed.)
like I might as well act out. My body, etc 'needs'
act out. I am
disgusted with myself. I feel ashamed and guilty.
I can't pray. I feel like such a loser. I feel
like just sitting there.
past. I still feel bad, I decide instantly to act
I even have more pain.
4 to 6 to 8 hours later,
I decide to call someone. I get an answering
machine. I explained that I have acted out. I
mumble a half hearted message about wanting a call
back. I really don't. But I am "doing
about what they think of me.
2 days later I call my
sponsor. I can't really remember all the downhill
steps of acting out, but I have a sure resolve to
not do it again. (as if I had control. What?
I thought you admitted powerlessness last October in
a meeting in Seattle. I am confused)
Option 2: "Taking
Action in Recovery"
realize I am in cycle. I really I have only sinned
I GO call someone immediately.
(calling fellow recovering members is probably the
most sure way to sober ourselves up)
I don't save face (by
minimizing, and not showing any emotion) but I save
my rear end by (humiliating myself with emotion,
with honest and an attitude that I don't care what
they think, "I am
trying to get sober and what they think doesn't
matter, but what I do to get well is what matters
go to the pool, but go somewhere safe.
I make a 24 hour plan or an evening plan. "By God's
grace, 1) I am going to read a little from program
literature; 2) I am going to read from the Gospels
until the feeling passes; 3) I am going to go to
dinner at a safe restaurant; 4) I am going to write
in my journal starting with a three item
gratefulness inventory. 4) I am going to
journal about what is bothering me. If I know how
to do the fourth step, write one out. 5) I think
about how bad the acting out could get if I just
take one sip (or look).
I YIELD to God and
surrender this to Him. Yield to direction, to
my sponsor's advice and the principles of the
later, I call my sponsor. (yes, I called someone or
him earlier, but calling after two hours is a great
idea) we can do all the right stuff and then act out
saying, "it didn't work." But, calling later will
ensure some sobriety until the feeling passes. If
someone was suicidal would we expect that they could
move out of it in just one phone call. No, we would
call again to check in again.
evening prayers. Thank God and praise him for
another day of sobriety.
pajamas that are appropriate for staying sober.
tempted, understand that the plan will be to get up
(like clockwork, without an emotional disturbance)
and pray. The more automatic it is, the better it
seems to work. (panicking makes us feel like we are
doing something wrong)
I wake up
to face another day. I feel good, loved and
So, you might want
to journal what you did wrong. Think about
what you want to do right next time and write it
down. Laminate it and carry it with you like a
credit card. Read it every few hours, days or
weeks depending on you need. Share what you
wrote with a sponsor, therapist or friend in
recovery. Notice how it wasn't really graphic.
But share to the point where you aren't saving face,
that is you feel embarrassed. Tell on
yourself. You will recovery this way. I
have clients do this exercise and it is really
Erik Bohlin, M.A., LMHC