With alcohol, 100% action is always sufficient to remain sober in order to complete the process of the Steps. With other addictions (particularly food and sex), it is regularly the case that an individual who is taking 100% of the suggestions still finds themselves acting out.
Sometimes such individuals are told they have not got Step One and are put back at Step One (or some exercise prior to Step One). In fact, sometimes people are trapped in this loop, because they are being prohibited from taking the actions of the Steps required to access power until they demonstrate they have accessed power sufficiently to remain clean. This is both irrational and cruel.
On the other hand, an individual might say, 'I'm powerless, which means I can act out all I want, because God will decide when He wants to keep me abstinent.' This is going to the other absurd extreme.
A more helpful approach is this:
- Anyone can stay abstinent for a little bit on their own with willpower.
- Anyone can put together abstinence time not by trying to remain abstinent but by committing to a daily programme of action that effectively ties up their entire schedule from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep.
- This daily programme of action consists in substituting healthy activities (Steps, service, fellowship, job, home, family, and other obligations, general life maintenance, and fun) for the acting out.
- This is supported by constant conscious contact with God.
- Willpower is absolutely required (see page 85 of the Big Book) but is directed at the positive action in the place of avoiding the negative action.
- In many cases, this will indeed bring about full abstinence, leading to permanent abstinence.
- In as many cases, however, there are disconcerting lapses in behavioural addictions.
The response to this is:
- Do not beat yourself up.
- Tighten up the actions forming the programme described above. (See page 120 of the Big Book).
- Do everything to develop a closer relationship with God and to rely on God for everything at all times.
- Decide you are not to act out one day at a time, regardless of how you feel or what happens and place yourself entirely at God's mercy to achieve this.
Experience suggests that this approach will diminish the occurrence of and ultimately eliminate the acting out. The acting out will stay eliminated provided that all of amends are completed, no new unamended harm builds up, and concerted daily action is taken on Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve.
Sometimes total abstinence is instant; sometimes it is not. When it is not, bad luck, but don't give in. Give it more welly.