The Need for a 12-Step Program
Committing to participate in a 12-Step program is a critical milestone in the recovery process. Many people have taken “half measures” and relapsed. It is usually when addicts finally admit that they are powerless to change on their own and become willing to join a 12-Step program that they find real recovery.
12-Step programs are non-professional, non-profit groups. There are no dues or fees for membership. Programs provide (a) specific boundaries and recovery plans, (b) accountability to a sponsor and regular reporting at group meetings, (c) support and encouragement from others who attend meetings, (d) a step-by-step process for pursuing recovery and making life changes, and (e) an emphasis on the need to turn to a Higher Power for help and intervention. The “12 Steps of Recovery” list the process by which individuals make the spiritual and mental changes that enable them to maintain long-term recovery. The steps were originally written by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, but closely correlate to the LDS view of the repentance process. Productive participation in a 12-Step group initially requires attending at least three meetings per week, working the 12 Steps daily and regularly reporting to a sponsor.
Sponsorship is a critical component of all 12-Step recovery programs. Sponsors are those who have worked the 12 Steps and have found recovery for a specific addiction. Their experience uniquely qualifies them to help others suffering from the same addiction. They provide accountability, hope and specific guidance on how to avoid relapse. While the need for an addict to have a sponsor is generally recognized, many people do not understand the critical role of a sponsor for the addict’s spouse or loved ones. An addict’s spouse will generally fall into a number of very predictable, but serious and negative thought and behavior patterns. Having a sponsor who has also dealt with a sexually husband or wife can give a recovering spouse support and validation. Their sponsor can help them to set healthy boundaries, restore positive thinking patterns and improve their self-perception.
The LDS church has two specific types of 12-Step recovery groups. Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) meetings are open to men and women who want to recover from any type of addictive behavior. Pornography Addiction Support Group (PASG) meetings are for pornography addicts with a corresponding “Family Support Group” for spouses or loved ones. The meetings follow the same format or script as ARP meetings.
There are also a number of non-LDS 12-Step groups that deal with sexual addiction. Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) groups are functioning in many areas and provide a very effective program for recovery from pornography and sexual addiction. S-Anon meetings are available to help those who are affected by someone else’s sexual behavior.
Finding the Right 12-Step Program
Much of the benefit obtained from a 12-Step meeting comes directly from the people who attend. Accordingly, 12-Step meetings are as varied as the members present. It is important to find a meeting that works for the individual seeking sobriety and recovery. Effective groups will have:
- Regular meetings several times a week conducted by someone who has recovered from that specific addiction
- Meetings with a reasonable number of people who have found healing and can share their experience, strength and hope
- Available sponsors who are qualified to guide newcomers through the recovery process
- Recommended literature specific to the addiction and methodology for working the steps
- A definition of sobriety that conforms to the value system of the individual seeking help
If after attending several meetings the individuals seeking help do not have a positive experience, they should look for a different group that can better meet their needs. It is important not to give up until a group that works for them is found.
In areas where LDS PASG meetings are firmly established, it is possible each of the above criteria may be met by attending the LDS-sponsored meetings. In areas where the LDS sponsored meetings are less developed, there may not be a format or sufficient number of people in recovery to find an appropriate sponsor and get the experience, strength and hope needed for recovery. In those cases, it is important that addicts and spouses be encouraged to attend other non-LDS meetings such as SA or S-Anon in addition to the LDS meetings. As they work with their SA or S-Anon sponsors and find recovery, they will then be in a position to share that experience, strength and hope with their brothers or sisters at the PASG or Family Support group meetings, thus strengthening and growing the LDS programs.
It is important to note that there are a number of other non-LDS groups for sexual addiction. An advantage of SA in particular is that their definition of sexual sobriety is consistent with LDS values: “No form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse.” Some of the other groups do not necessarily promote the same standards of chastity. As members seeking recovery look for appropriate 12-Step groups, they should make sure that the group’s definition of sobriety matches their belief system.