No Scanning Mode

In 1993, my wife and I led a church singles ministry. During a pool party at a single’s house while playing catch, my six-year-old son looked at me and said, “Daddy, why do you keep looking around? Why don’t you just play catch with me?” I believe that was the first time anyone spoke to me about my looking at the women around me.

Twenty years later, next to my wife at a Seattle theater, I once again was looking. I fixed my lust-filled gaze upon the lead actress. At the end as she exited the theater, she stared at me with hatred in her eyes. I deserved it because of the gaze I had subjected her to.

How to stop this abuse of women and this unfaithfulness to my wife? Looking was an everyday occurrence. I talked about the incident with my sponsor and program friends. I prayed for the actress and asked her forgiveness. The shame left me — and the guilt did not.

One Saturday, as we prayed, I asked my wife’s forgiveness. I needed to make direct amends for the lusting at the play and to ask her to be a surrogate for the actress as an indirect amends. She forgave me and received my forgiveness on behalf of the actress.

But how to surrender the lust that led to this abuse? Despite years in the program, I was still taking that “first drink” and sometimes going to the trance-like state.

A younger SA member confided that he kept taking “sips of lust” and wondered if I knew how to stop? I basically had the same problem and no real solution to offer. While I did not act out and would put it into the light as soon as I was willing, some days my head was on a swivel. This drove me crazy.

Recently, my wife and I were headed through airport security. I fought the usual urges to gaze at the women around me. We arrived at the airport and the security machine scanned me.

It dawned on me that I’d been passing females through my personal scanner most of my life. Scanning, sipping lust, stealing looks once, twice, three times until I lost count. After years in the program this was where my disease still lived, albeit tempered to some degree by my spiritual fitness on any given day.

In scanning mode, I survey the females in my field of vision and focus in to the degree I find them attractive, what they are wearing, how they walk, what position they are in, whether they are married or single, and their physical features. In scanning mode, I’m checking out everyone, wondering what it would be like to be with her, turning a smile into a sign of interest in me.

The solution is to turn off “scanning mode” and stop putting every female I saw through my “personal scanner.” The way to stop lusting was not to start.

I’d tried the “first look is on God, and the second is on me” approach. That rarely worked because after I‘d taken the first I couldn’t stop taking the second look. The “three second rule” never worked either. Who’s counting “seconds” when one is drinking in a person! However, by turning off scanning mode, I would not need to take the “first drink.” I’d need to turn off “scanning mode” frequently each day because it was my default mode.

While with my wife in a hotel I knew this was a testing ground for not taking the “first drink.” One morning we went swimming. While my wife was sunbathing, I went up on a bridge over the canal to make program calls. She said, “Don’t look this way” because of the women sunbathing next to her. I responded, “It’s the same situation on the other side of the bridge.” So, I spent my time on the bridge looking off into what I now call “unoccupied space.”

On another occasion my wife said, “Did you see how that woman was dressed?!” I was happy to realize I hadn’t, because I wasn’t scanning. For perhaps the first time in my life, I was not in “scanning mode” and taking the “first drink of lust.”

When we returned to Seattle from our vacation, I soon discovered “scanning mode” reappeared. I needed to find a “no scanning partner.” It is a “we” program after all: God, me, and another human being. I found a partner and we send each other a simple text most days: “no scanning.” We communicate when in a challenging situation, or when we’ve given into scanning and need to renew our commitment. It’s amazing how my Higher Power uses our partnership to increase my willingness and strengthen my resolve to give up scanning one person at a time.

William R., Washington, USA

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