Defining Sobriety

The “S” fellowship I most frequently attend in person (as often as I can) and in phone meetings (2-3 times weekly) is Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). Of the 12-step groups, SA is perhaps the only one that specifies an objective definition of sobriety (Read “What is a Sexaholic and What is Sexual Sobriety?). Because I have embraced a sobriety definition very similar to SA, I often describe myself as a “recovering sexaholic.”

The counselor that my wife and I went to for our 3-day “intensive” and follow-up sessions instructed me to come up with my own sobriety definition more detailed (and restrictive, if you please) than SA. He used the analogy of a traffic signal to list red, yellow, and green light behaviors. Engaging in a red light behavior equals the loss of sobriety. Yellow light behaviors are dangerous to my sobriety and should be avoided as much as possible. Green light behaviors are healthy actions that contribute to recovery and protect my sobriety and important relationships.

The following are summary statements of my red/yellow/green lights:

RED: Breaking sobriety as defined by SA (sex with self or someone other than my spouse) and/or giving into lust in the avenues of media and personal interaction, seeking persons, places, and images that feed lustful desires or would lead to sexual acting out.

YELLOW: Any action or lack of action that endangers sobriety or feeds my addictions, sexual or otherwise, such as allowing isolation, self-absorption, resentment, and negative thinking to go unchecked.

GREEN: Actions, attitudes, and behaviors that build up important relationships and produce intimacy with God and others, reinforcing God’s purposes and plan for my life.

Each of these three areas began as lists of specific activities that I have distilled down to these summary statements. However, I still review the detailed lists of behaviors from time to time to remind myself of what sobriety really looks like in my life.