Back in 2000 a movie came out with little acclaim or fan-fare and without much box office success that tried to
address the 9th Step. The movie was titled “Bounce” with Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. Interestingly enough it is to date the only movie I have seen where the actual text of the Alcoholic Anonymous big book is shown. As Affleck’s character who is newly sober, the camera zooms in over his shoulder as he is reading the 12 Steps from Page 59. As his fingers dismissively reviews them all before stopping on Step nine which is the only one he wants to do. He then in typical addict thinking proceeds to by-pass Step’s One through Eight by jumping right into an ill-fated Step Nine and in the process really messes with someone’s life [Gwyneth Paltrow]. It is a perfect illustration of why the steps are written in order and why they are to be done in order. The Affleck character though newly sober is still a liar, a cheat and a thief not to mention a sex addict womanizer. His character defects and self will drive his every action in an effort to relieve him of his own guilt. The movie had such great potential except of course for the Hollywood ending.
There is a subtle disconnect between how the ninth step is viewed in AA and the way we view it in the “S” community. The general philosophy in AA is to not tell a spouse or partner about sexual infidelity believing that the information would hurt them too much. Page 86 of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions lays out the AA school of thought very clearly when it says “We cannot, for example, unload a detailed account of extramarital adventures upon the shoulders of our unsuspecting wife or husband.” It seems to work in that world. But in the world of the sex addict where sexual compulsivity is at the heart of the betrayal, the exact nature of the wrongs is a needed component for healing but it should never, never, ever be done ad-hoc in the living room or without a real structured and guided process. It should also never be given in installments. Each disclosure is the same as a new trauma for the jilted partner and it has to be dealt with in a healthy way. The partners deserve to be keep safe even if they don’t know it. We have seen cases where the partner demands to know and yet she can’t even see the harm it is doing to her as she pushes for every detail of every sorted action sometimes over decades of an unhealthy addictive relationship. It has the same effect as self-mutilation. It also suggests on Page 125 of the AA Basic text that “Husbands and wives have sometimes been obliged to separate for a time until a new perspective, and a new victory over hurt pride could be re-won”. As hard as it is, sometimes a supervised no contact separation is for the best. That’s a far cry from a wife screaming at her husband to pack his stuff up and get out of her house, only for them to talk and text many times a day and long into the night. That scenario is not a separation but rather an unhealthy punishment. It does more harm than good. The real gifts of the 9th Step are on Page 83 and 84 of the AA Big Book. They are commonly referred as the 9th Step Promises. They read as follows:
- We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
- We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
- We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
- No matter how far down the scale we have gone we will see how our experience can benefit others.
- That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
- We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
- Self-seeking will slip away.
- Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
- Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
- We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
- We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them! But the program teaches us that the promises only appear at the 9th Step.
There are no shortcuts to wellness.
The tragic flaw in the movie “Bounce” was that even with the best of intentions to fix what he messed, without doing all the pre-emptive steps he caused even more harm even if un-wittingly. September is the Ninth Step month and prepped by the prior eight months of work, you just might be ready to start to make amends. Along with the 4th and 5th step, it takes a real recovery program to do this 9th step right. As it says on Page 83 in the Big Book “a remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fill the bill at all”.
Shame and guilt are at the core of every Sex and Love Addict. Doing recovery gives the addict a chance to let go of the wreckage and start a new life and as the old AA adage goes “you can’t think your way to a new way of living, you have to live your way to a new way of thinking! And you might just need some help. If you’re interested in a new way of living give me a call. Misery is optional.