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August 04 • Cliché Shocker

Day 757

Experience, strength, and hope.

Experience, strength, and hope.

Experience, strength, and hope.

It amazes me that after two years in the program, after two to three meetings a week and a year-long workshop, I still hear things for the first time that I know have been said and read many times before. I'm beginning to believe that this is evidence of how the brain can block incoming info as directed by its addicted portion, affectionately known as my cerebellum.

The first time I noticed this phenomenon, it was quite disconcerting. I felt stupid, and I thought it meant that I wasn't paying attention in meetings and that my reading retention capacity had abandoned me. Both of those worries were well-founded, but not because of any lack of determination. Indeed, it was as if the more determined I was to learn and change, the more my addict brain was determined to throw shade at my shadows and keep me in the dark.

The most recent example of this is the phrase experience, strength, and hope. When this happened last time (The Next Right Thing), I went straight to Professor Google and was shocked and embarrassed at how common the phrase was in recovery circles. So I returned to Dr. G's classroom and was even more blown away at the hundreds of books and thousands of web pages that popped up, all with experience, strength, and hope as a key phrase or title or URL.

I even found another sexual addiction recovery community that I had not previously heard about. I still know very little about them, but here's the website of Sexual Recovery Anonymous: www.sexualrecovery.org/about/

The Sex Addicts Anonymous site says this about how the phrase informs our meetings:

"In meetings, we listened as men and women shared their experience, strength, and hope with each other to find freedom from addictive sexual behavior and help each other recover from sex addiction."

This standard cliché is apparently at the core of many of the 'rules' of our community. Notice that the injunction is not "Challenge, Advise, and Hold Accountable." Now THAT is a motto I could sink my teeth into, all in the name of helping the guy that needs it more than me.

Most addicts, especially in early recovery, feel they have a lot of new views and fool's gold to share; I think it makes us feel better about ourselves when we can instruct rather than listen quietly. That's why I have to be reminded that there is no crosstalk or advice unless requested.

The heart of experience, strength, and hope is wrapped around listening to each other's stories, sharing where we find strength, and reflecting the hope that results from working the Steps and our programs.

The concept is not new to me, but the phrase itself was not on my list of remembered cutesie encouragements. It is now.

For a guy who has always prided himself in his cleverness, intellect, and uniqueness, I sure seem to be playing in someone else's sandbox right now. I am not comfortable with mantras, but I now have mine. I do not like following the crowd, but I now value this herd of addicts that I can hear without fear. I especially do not like being like everyone else, but in this room, I am happy and grateful that I'm nothing special, and I no longer have to act like I am.



It's a sweet, sweet dream

Sometimes I'm almost there

Sometimes I fly like an eagle

And sometimes I'm deep in despair

On the road of experience, join in the living day

If there's an answer, it's just that it's just that way

–John Denver, “Looking for Space”



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