Daily Practice of the Program Keeps Me Sober

Daily Practice of the Program Keeps Me Sober

My home group is in St. Petersburg, Russia, but one year ago I moved to Hanoi, Vietnam, where there are few other recovering sexaholics. My recovery started the day I came to an SA meeting. Since that day my life has changed a lot, and it is still changing. I am grateful for everything, past, present, and future. My life is happening exactly as the God of my understanding wants, so I accept everything life brings to me. I want to live this life.

While working Steps 11 and 12, I realized that I need to do more to follow the program. Previously, the only time I worked the Steps was right before I met with my sponsor, and then I just hastily read some program literature and answered some questions. I now want to work the Steps more consistently. I listened to a recorded SA speaker talk about the routine he began to follow after his relapse. Based on his daily program, I created one that fits me and where I am in recovery. This is the result:

  • Read program literature (15 minutes)
  • Step work (10 minutes)
  • Stretching and physical exercise
  • 2-3 SA meetings (weekly)
  • Keep boundaries on anime and television (half an anime magazine, one episode of TV series)
  • Report progress on this recovery routine to my sponsor (daily)
  • Three program calls or text messages (daily)
  • Daily Sobriety Renewal (DSR) with my DSR partner (daily)
  • Prayers and meditation (daily)
  • 1-2 service activities (weekly)
  • Write in my feelings diary (daily)

Reading literature and working the Steps for short, set time helped me avoid my usual thoughts of failure. At first I thought, This is too difficult, it takes too long, and I can’t do this. But as I stuck with my new routine, I realized that even 10-15 minutes on a regular basis can move my recovery forward.

My short memory makes it hard to remember what I’ve surrendered and what victories my Higher Power already gave me. Now, thanks to completing and sending my recovery action list to my sponsor every day, I find serenity in having done my part to improve my condition. I asked my sponsor if I could send my daily performance to her even though she’s quite busy. I call my sisters in the program to discuss my progress, but when I wake up to my sponsor’s simple message, “Received!”, I feel acknowledged, safe, and closer to my Higher Power. I consider this both an action and a benefit of working this recovery routine.

Program Calls
When I call my sisters, I speak and I listen. I feel a part of something real. I hear my sisters; they are alive and sincere; they trust me, and I trust them. Quite often, we discover we have very similar experiences, and I feel a warm bond between us because God brought us together.

I like calling each other “sister” and “brother” because it reminds me of our kinship, and it creates a boundary against my lust. “Sister” reminds me of my bond with others and that we’re supposed to be connected. When I call someone “brother,” lust backs away. It becomes my lust repellent.

Daily Sobriety Renewal
The Russian SA website offers three versions of the DSR script: 5-minute, 15-minute, and 30-minute. My DSR partner and I started with the 5-minute version but usually spent about 30 minutes discussing each question. When we switched to the 15-minute script, we took up to 45 minutes. I wanted more structure and less emotion in our DSR, so I began writing out that day’s lust, distracting thoughts, and character defects before I got on the phone with my “sister.” I also noted the program tools I would use that day. Written preparation helped me begin to take action on my recovery before I even got on the phone. Now my renewal sister and I use the 30-minute format, and we take anywhere from 22 to 45 minutes, which helps me dig deeper and listen to myself. I try to recognize when I find myself distracted.

Feelings Diary
At first, I didn’t understand why my sponsor recommended that I keep a feelings diary because it seemed like just another version of the DSR. But over time, I began to recognize its benefits. With my DSR, I recognize my lust triggers and my character defects. In my feelings diary, I discover where they come from. Before I began writing about my feelings, I had no idea how many different feelings were possible, and I certainly couldn’t identify most of them by name. But thanks to my feelings diary, I began to identify my feelings as I experienced them. Sometimes I noticed that I felt different feelings at the same time, such as gratitude and shame. I also began to see that feelings are not the same thing as thoughts. My feelings diary has helped me accept my thoughts, feelings, wants, and past behavior—I can accept them because I know God loves me. That makes it okay to make mistakes.

When I’m Not Okay
When I’m not feeling well, the first thing I do is practice H.A.L.T. (Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?). I acknowledge what I’m experiencing, then I surrender it to my Higher Power, my sponsor, and to my SA sisters…then I go wash the dishes. In other words, after I practice surrender, I DO something that’s productive or helpful regardless of what I’m feeling.

Getting Things Done
Responsibility and follow-through have always been difficult for me. The program has taught me to break things down into doable segments so I’ve accomplished tasks I could have never done before the program: schoolwork, past-due assignments, preparing for the work week, thinking before I speak (I’m still improving here), reading program literature, and consistently pay something toward my utility bills. These things are still difficult and even scary, but I recently opened the White Book at Step 11 where it says, “I ask God to establish His Kingdom in this organization.” And I said this phrase out loud several times, referring to utilities. Surprisingly, there was no more indignation, I trusted God, and the defect disappeared; peace came.

Highlights of My Daily Routine
I wake up most often without an alarm, around 6 a.m. I once quit my job after a week to avoid getting up early. Now, getting up early is a fruit of the program for me.

I always start with the Serenity Prayer, a daily reading of SA book The Real Connection, a prayer from my religion, and meditation. I refrain from listening to music, or anyone’s analysis of the economy, work, or life. The program showed me my limits on dumping any trash on me from family members or friends. During the day, when I get immersed in work issues and my feelings and thoughts, I take a few minutes to connect with God, and suddenly I begin to feel my breath, to see what surrounds me, to see beauty. This newfound ability brings with it a feeling of gratitude to the Higher Power.

In the evening I use subdued lights, maybe light music, and I only talk about work with my husband immediately after he returns home. I appreciate our time together in the evening. I still do not cope well with condemnation or discontent. I end any communication with the outside world by 8 p.m. I get ready for bed like a caterpillar in pupation: all processes slow down, and I slow down.

My days are not perfect, but I am no longer looking for perfection. I am looking for honesty, openness, the desire to live now, and the understanding that everything I have ever wanted is already with me today. And this understanding is the greatest gift to me from God.

Jenya N., Hanoi, Vietnam

Discussion Topic

How can you strengthen your and your sponsees’ programs in order to prevent relapse?

This awesome article describes Jenya’s strong daily program routine which keeps her close to God and life. She goes in great detail to tell us about the tools that have been working for her—even after having moved from her country of origin to the other side of the world.

Her recovery program includes daily program calls, calls with her DSR partner, an in-depth feelings diary, taking actions of love, accomplishing tasks, getting up early, structure, connecting with God during the day.

She sees that she needs to not just hastily read and answer some program questions, but work the Steps consistently.

What does your daily program routine look like? Are you aware that you can’t stay clean on yesterday’s shower but that your program must keep growing or your disease will start growing again?

You may use this topic in a discussion meeting, or send a story of your own recovery journey to essay@sa.org

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