“What is progressive victory over lust?”
“Why do I need this for true recovery from sexual addiction?”
“‘Progressive victory over lust…’ – is that even possible?”
These are questions that came to my mind when I first heard the phrase “progressive victory over lust.”
How would you answer these questions today?
Do you believe the statement that says that progressive victory over lust is essential to true recovery?
In the White Book of SA, it clearly states,
…lust is the driving force behind our sexual acting out, and true sobriety includes progressive victory over lust. (p. 4)
Why do I need to worry about lust?
I remember going to meetings, starting in about 2008. The common introduction in the meeting, the one most of us used, was this:
“Hi, I’m ____ and I’m addicted to pornography, masturbation, and lust…”
Sounds pretty honest, doesn’t it?
For me, I thought I was being honest.
But I also remember having a bit of sobriety, working with a sponsor, and having the distinct thought come to mind:
“How can I say I’m really sober from all this if I’m still browsing around the internet, specifically Facebook, or checking people out?”
This question came to mind a few different times but I quickly brushed it off and repeated to myself that I was sober – I wasn’t acting out by looking at porn or masturbating and that all was well…
The Best Decision We Ever Made
In 2014, my wife and I went to the UCAP conference in Salt Lake City. This was the probably the best decision I’ve ever made: I was scared of who I might see there, I wasn’t sure if I really belonged at a conference like this, and my wife was with me, still dealing with a lot of trauma from my horrible choices.
We had recently read two books which I really recommend: “Love You, Hate the Porn” and “What Can I Do About
Him Me?” I can’t remember 100%, but I’m pretty sure both of these books talked some about lust and how it was a key ingredient in the sexual addiction process.
But the concept of lust really hit me the most when I went to my first SAL meeting and we read, from the White Book, about “The Problem.”
“We plugged in by drinking in the pictures, the images, and pursuing the objects of our fantasies. We lusted and wanted to be lusted after…
“We were addicted to the intrigue, the tease, the forbidden…Lusting after the Big Fix, we gave away our power to others….
“Our habit made true intimacy impossible. We could never know real union with another because we were addicted to the unreal. We went for the ‘chemistry,’ the connection that had the magic, because it bypassed intimacy and true union. Fantasy corrupted the real, lust killed love.” (p. 203)
Wow, what was all this talk about LUST?
How did they know I was thinking many of these very things?
What does progressive victory over lust mean?
My eyes were probably not open yet, but I was pretty taken back by what I read and heard in my first SAL meeting. Maybe I’d found the answer to that question about sobriety and people watching.
“Progressive victory over lust…What is that? What does that even mean?”
The word progressive means “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.”
Addiction is progressive. One therapist I’ve worked with would always say, “Once is too many and a thousand times is never enough.” In fact, the White Books states that “…our sexaholism doesn’t stand still; it progressively worsens.” (p. 32)
When I hear the word lust, I used to immediately identify it with sexual things. But, on Wikipedia, I believe it has a better, more accurate definition:
Lust is an emotion or feeling of intense desire in the body. The lust can take any form such as the lust for sex, lust for expensive objects (extravagance) or the lust for power. It can take such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food.
This, too, is eye-opening to me.
Based on the above definition, a synonym for lust is coveting.
Lust can be a feeling of discontent.
It can show up as comparison.
It can feel like I never have enough of something: money, power, fame, control, food, or, in most of our cases, sex in its variety of forms.
Learning this led to my next question, then:
“How do I work on “progressive victory over lust?”
And why is that crucial to real recovery from addiction?
Is progressive victory over lust mandatory? Can I chip away at it over time and eventually it will just work itself out?
The White Book has this to say about the importance of progressive victory over lust in relation to being a sponsor:
There are few absolute requirements a prospective sponsor should have, but a period of comfortable sexual sobriety, including progressive victory over lust, is surely a must. (bold & underline added for emphasis)
If I’m not working on this progressive victory, is being a sponsor putting the cart before the horse?
One person in recovery who I really respect said it this way:
Progressive victory over lust does NOT mean I lust and lust less often over time; it means I STOP and STAY STOPPED lusting and, over time, it gets easier to not lust.
An alcoholic doesn’t have progressive victory over alcohol by drinking less and less every day until, one day, he’s magically cured. Instead, he STOPS and STAYS STOPPED, and, over time, the temptation is less and less to go back to alcohol.
Practicing the Chin Up Approach
One thing I try to practice one day at a time, even moment to moment, is the chin up approach. This was shared by a facilitator back in 2007 who said he looks at everyone from the chin up.
Not only does this help him look at everyone as a son or daughter of God, but it eliminates the comparison mindset, the objectification, and ultimately, the lustful thoughts.
I remember thinking, when I heard that concept: “Yeah, that’d be a great idea. But who’s he kidding. I can’t do that…”
And the truth is, I CAN’T – but GOD CAN.
As I “practice” the chin up approach: being aware of where I am, asking for His help, and surrendering my natural tendencies to want to look at others from the chin down – God is there and really does help.
This, to me, is one way to practice progressive victory over lust.
The Addiction Relationship
In the book “Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship,” there is an equation that, to me, is so accurate:
A leads to B and B leads to C
A is debilitating negative emotions.
B is lust.
C is sexually acting out.
Thus, A, negative emotions lead to B, lust, which leads to C, sexually acting out. If I can deal with the A’s in my life effectively, the B’s and C’s will lose their power over time – progressive victory.
The White Book talks about this too:
“Progressive victory over [personality] defects, not their eradication, is the power of God at work in us. What we really do battle against is not other people but our old natures, the negative force within us we can obey anytime we wish, the force that is always willing and able to wrong another.” (p. 131)
On pages 156-168 of the White Book it answers the question of what progressive victory over lust looks like.
Here’s the summary:
18 Steps to Practice Progressive Victory Over Lust
- Stop practicing the compulsion. (This is the STOP and STAY STOPPED concept.)
- Stop feeding the obsession.
- Participate in the fellowship of the program.
- Admit powerlessness.
- Bring the inside out.
- Use the literature of the program.
- Go to work on the other defects. (This is working on the A’s in addiction – the debilitating negative emotions. This is also the living Steps of 6 & 7.)
- Learn to give instead of take.
- Get an [SAL] sponsor.
- Make friends in the program.
- Carry the message of your recovery. (Live Step 12.)
- Practice taking the actions of love.
- Recognize and feed your hunger for God.
- Cast it out.
- Take refuge in God.
- Look lust in the eye.
A lot to digest.
Taking things one day at a time, one moment at a time, can be so helpful and practical.
Am I ever going to be able to control what other people wear that could be triggering? NO!
Am I ever going to be able to stop the commercials on TV from getting more and more pornographic? NO!
I CAN be aware, I CAN ask for help, both from God and from others in group; I CAN say a surrender prayer and ask for direction prior to entering a place where I know there could be triggering situations.
It all goes back to the serenity prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…”
I look forward to everyone’s feedback, their experience, and additional questions.