After the problematic sexual behavior has waned, you’re left with a blank canvas that holds endless possibilities. Yet, it can also be quite overwhelming and uncertain. Now that the compulsive sex is gone, who am I? What do I really want and desire? What matters most to me? These questions begin the process toward existential, spiritual exploration. Out-of-control sexual behavior was often about the absence of purpose, and recovery brings out your quest for meaning.
Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, developed a branch of psychology he called Logotherapy. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning comes from the premise that our primary motivational force is to discover meaning in life. Whether it be a global tragedy such as the Holocaust or a more current anguish, he believes it’s your birthright to grapple with the meaning of life.
My grandmother was raised on a farm in Romania in the early 20th century. She firmly believed in life’s simple gifts: playing gin rummy, preparing my favorite salmon croquettes and taking family trips to Atlantic City. These may seem like mundane moments, but they planted the seeds toward my current focus on connection, love and play.
Many years ago I went to a workshop at UCLA on Spirituality and Addiction, and the chaplain told the audience that spirituality can be defined as “whatever gives your life meaning”. When I heard him speak, I reflected on my relationship with my grandmother and eventually I developed my mission statement which has been a way for me to concisely describe my purpose:
To encourage, affirm, and inspire meaningful connection, ongoing learning and deeper growth both in myself and others. To invite fun, laughter, and play into all of my relationships.
In my recent book, It’s Not About the Sex: Moving from Isolation to Intimacy after Sexual Addiction, I interviewed some of my brothers and sisters from the twelve-step rooms, and here are some of their responses from my chapter entitled Meaning, Purpose and Legacy:
Andrew: What gives your recovery meaning today?
Colin: Connecting with others, not isolating, not having to carry the burden solely on my shoulders, connecting through prayer and meditation. Being of service to others.
Susan: Helping others. Because of my own background, I’m especially qualified to educate people about porn and prostitution. To be in twelve-step recovery and help people work the steps. Because I came into recovery, I got free and then I help others get free.
Alex: I’m learning a profession where I’m helping people so that’s a really big one. But I think what I want to do more is to give kindness to others all the time. Buddhist meditation is also a big part of my life, it gives me a lot more clarity.
Mario: Living in my life instead of watching my life. Feeling grateful.
As you can see from these responses, similar themes emerged: being of service to others, gratitude, connection, and mindfulness to name a few. If you’re inclined toward working the twelve steps, steps1, 2 and 3 are terrific tools to focus on the establishment of a connection with a power greater than oneself. Through a connection with a Higher Power or Universal Energy, there is a clear opportunity to consider what purpose means to you in recovery. If the twelve steps are not your thing, there are limitless ways to explore meaning which we will discuss further in Part Two.