“Now about sex. Many of us need an overhauling there.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 68)
Here in Step Four, we are working at seeing ourselves as we have been in the past and how to now begin fitting ourselves to becoming what God as you understand God would have us be in relation to satisfactions of the natural human desires, instincts and ambitions shared by all people. Where we had been employing our own ideas and self-reliance in search of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves in life, we are now learning to practice “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20) while relying upon God and His ways…and yes, we do mention those things a lot! After all, those principles are at the very core of the message we carry…
“…a way out on which we can…join in brotherly and harmonious action (in life)…the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” (page 17)
…and some of us have been a bit “thicker” than others in the skull department. So, these new ideas had at first been rather foreign to us and easily forgettable until being or becoming fully-rooted in our minds…and that is why we mention them often here, and just as first done for us!
“We try to be sensible on this question (of sex and/or sexual overhaul). It’s so easy to get way off the track.” (page 68)
Our purpose here is not to discuss or debate sexual preferences or personal lifestyle choices. Whether considering sexual relations for pleasure, for procreation or even for both at once, our purpose here is to try to bring into view “a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life” (page 69) where we and others will no longer be wronged or hurt by whatever we do or do not do sexually. And so:
“We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate?” (page 69)
If a sexual partner of your past does not already appear on your list of harms to others and his or her name actually should be there, right now might be a good time to be sure about this:
“We subjected each relation to this test – was it selfish or not?”
If your only honest answer there is “Yes, it was selfish” (as in ‘Constant thought of myself and how can I get what I want?’), then be sure the other person’s name appears on your list of people hurt by your past conduct. The fact that some of our past actions in life have been related to sex does not change anything we are doing here in Step Four. Some of us have used sex to dishonestly extract things from other people, or at other times we have inconsiderately used someone or others during certain sexual activities that were really nothing other or better than what we might now call “interpersonal masturbation”. No matter how justified we might have believed ourselves to be at one time or another, the fact remains (at least for some of us) that “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” had seldom been anywhere nearby during the sexual relations of our pasts. So again:
“Whom had we hurt? Did we (or where did we) unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we (or where we were) at fault (in committing a wrong or harm against another human being), what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.
“In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life…(asking) God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them.”
What about “sex for hire” or commitment-free “consensual sex” between casual acquaintances or even close friends? We believe those kinds of “questionables” might best be answered here:
“To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.” (page 70)
Never are we asked to be rid of our natural human instincts and desires. Rather, we are asking to be shown what we might be enabled to do in order that everyone’s instincts and desires might ultimately be met without anything ever being done at the unwilling or unfruitful expense of others. So, there are times when we must set some of our own ambitions or desires aside in favor of what is best for others…
“Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs…when to (again) yield (to our selfishness, self-centeredness or self-reliance of the past) would (again only) mean (more) heartache (either for ourselves or for others, all around).” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”)
“Simple, but not easy”, we have heard. We must now “turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.” (“Bill’s Story”, page 14)
“Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our (willingness to continue learning new) motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink.” (page 70)
At first glance, some of the above can sound like some kind of punishment will be imposed upon us if we do not act or perform perfectly from this point onward. However, many of us have now come to understand all of this is really more a matter of simply learning to recognize and remain upon a path of life rather than wandering off on yet another branch of the one that had already been leading us to death. Many religions and/or denominations — “We represent no particular faith or denomination. We are dealing only with general principles…” (pages 93-94) — seem to speak of some kind of ultimate punishment for continual and non-repentant evil-doers, but our immediate concern is only about learning to live in a way the same folks often say can be beneficial today as well as eternally. And so, and with either thought in your own mind, we now suggest something like this:
“Choose your path for its experience or destination rather than by the depth of its rut.”
Before moving along to Step Five, our next bit of shared experience has to do with being sure we have been thorough while taking Step Four.