A List of 40 Recovery Tools

Last Updated on 28 November 2023

  1. Abstinence (partial or total):  We get support and growth by abstaining from people, places or things that we consider harmful.  Early in recovery a period of total sexual abstinence is a benefit; without abstinence, recovery is impossible.  Some people call this a period of celibacy.  Later abstinence will come to mean abstaining from your bottom line behaviors (sometimes called inner circle behaviors) and boundaries (sometimes called middle circle behaviors).
  2. Acceptance:  Accept that you are a sex and love addict.  Don’t blame yourself for failures, but don’t give in either.  There is no room in recovery for guilt and shame, as they perpetuate the shame spiral that often feeds our very addiction.  Guilt is when we feel we’ve done something bad.  Shame is when we feel that we are bad.  Both of these attitudes need to be addressed head-on in recovery.  Recovery provides us an opportunity to change our behaviors.
  3. Affirmations:  Daily affirmations are a way of retraining “old thoughts” of low self-esteem. 
  4. Anonymity and Confidentiality: Guard other’s safety by not repeating what is heard in a meeting or other confidential setting; value yourself and others by practicing “principles before personalities.” By using first names only, we guarantee that everyone will feel safe to share, and we place everyone on an equal footing.  Living respectfully of others is an important thread in the fabric of recovery.
  5. Balance:  Balancing your life is important.  To help build balance in your life and relationships, each day remember to develop personal relationships with people other than your partner.  Engage in pleasure, education, rest, creativity, spiritual involvement, and play.  Becoming compulsive about recovery does not make you sober and healthy; it merely substitutes another compulsion.
  6. Carry Recovery with You:  Keep reminders, cues, instructions, or anything else that will help in your purse or wallet.  Those things might include phone numbers of recovery friends, photographs of loved ones, your recovery plan, etc.
  7. Conferences, conventions, retreats, and workshops:  Conferences, conventions, retreats, and workshops provide opportunities to spend more time focused on recovery and in the company of other members of the fellowship.
  8. Deep breathing:  If you feel a panic attack coming on, try taking slow deep breaths until sanity begins to return.  Try other healing physical activities like soaking in a hot bath, looking in a mirror and saying “I love you” or other affirmations, or repeating the Serenity Prayer.
  9. Honesty:  Work to eliminate denial, half-truths, white lies, fibs, partial truths and overt dishonesty with ourselves and others.
  10. Humor:  “Laughter is the best medicine” is true.  Never take yourself too seriously.  Enjoy a healthy comedy movie or TV show when you feel down.
  11. Journaling:  Writing provides a way to become honest with ourselves and our Higher Power.  By writing in journals, gratitude lists, letters and emails we can measure our progress, values, motives, and Twelve Step work.  Record your thoughts, feelings, and insights. This can be an enormous help in developing and repairing your relationship with yourself. This also serves to show later how short-term our feelings can be.
  12. Literature:  Sexual recovery is a portable program: we can make use of AA, NA, CODA, COSA, Co-SLAA, S-Anon, OA, ACA, or any relevant recovery books and literature, plus our own books and pamphlets. Read some recovery literature everyday. Daily reading helps keep your focus on recovery. If you get one good new idea from a whole book, it was worth it. Become more knowledgeable about you addiction by any reading relevant books and visiting informational websites. It can tide you over till you’re able to make contact with another member. It also deepens your knowledge of the program, and no matter how often you read it, there’s always something surprising to learn.
  13. Live in the moment:  “One Day At a Time” as we often say. The thought of making a pledge to never act out sexually again can be discouraging and overwhelming. It’s important not to worry about the past or project the future, just stay in the moment. If necessary, take it one hour or even one minute at a time. If you become overwhelmed by tasks to be accomplished, make yourself a list of things to do. Keep them small and simple. Tasks that can be accomplished in five minutes or less can be as rewarding as major long-term tasks, especially in that moment of confusion and bewilderment. Be mindful when your attention is not in the moment. When your mind dwells in the future or the past, you can do nothing. Remember, the only time you can ever do anything is right now.
  14. Meetings:  Meetings (whether in real life or online) are where we share our experience, strength and hope with each other to better understand our common problem and work together towards the solution. Even if you feel you’ll die if you don’t act out or your mind doesn’t want you to get better, you need to “bring the body” to a meeting. Even when something is “more important” or more exciting or more fun, get to a meeting. Very subtly your value system will get healed. We failed to do it alone, but we can do it together. You can listen to others tell of what it was like, what happened to them and what it is like now. You listen for the similarities and discard the differences. In these meetings you learn valuable information about your disease and how the 12-step program works. Members give and receive support, work the steps, and share experience, strength and hope in a safe environment. At first, attend as many meetings as you can. If possible, attend meetings daily for the first 90 days and practice abstinence to the best of your ability. The slogan “90 meetings in 90 days” is a sure-fire way to learn the true meaning of “First Things First.” Making a meeting every day no matter what is a foolproof way to discipline deep habits of “giving in” and self-indulgence — habits so deep they seem our true selves rather than the voice of our illness.
  15. Open-mindedness:  Be vigilant to listen for similarities and not differences. We share common feelings, no matter what our acting-out behavior involved. Be very mindful to not separate yourself from recovery or the fellowship. We all feel “terminally unique” sometimes, but with time we learn that we are part of a larger unity that overcomes miracles.
  16. People, Places and Things: Choose to avoid all triggering situations, or make them safe if you can’t avoid them. You don’t have to go to business meetings at nude bars. You can tell the others that going to such places interferes with your spiritual growth. If you can’t avoid some triggers such as working on a computer, make it safe for yourself. Install blocking software (so that you don’t know the password), keep your door open, turn the screen toward the door, put the computer at home in a public area, never go online when you are alone. You can figure out the details. Avoiding triggers is respecting your own boundaries.
  17. Physical Activity: Spend time doing fun activities, and get involved in sports, exercise, and other physical activities. This is useful for all addicts and particularly important for those who became sedentary with their addictions. No matter what the activity (even cleaning) releases natural endorphins in the brain which help us feel healthy.
  18. Prayer and Meditation: Prayer and meditation are a means of establishing a conscious contact with a Power greater than ourselves, for spiritual healing. Regular spiritual practices help us connect with our Higher Power, which strengthens our recovery. It is important to explore whatever beliefs you have in a power greater than yourself. This may be God as you know God through your religious beliefs or values. Your Higher Power may be nature, the energy of the universe, your 12 Step group, or any other thing that is greater than you are. There are no religious requirements or beliefs necessary for recovery.  Some people have either lost their spirituality before coming to recovery and some have never had any spiritual beliefs. In recovery you may experience a new or reawakened spiritual feeling. Some of these awakened feelings may challenge your religious upbringing. Be open-minded. Pray for help from your Higher Power — as you understand it or don’t understand it. Particularly effective is the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” In emergency situations, some of us use it as a mantra, saying it over and over till the crisis passes.
  19. Prioritise: Make recovery your number one priority. All of your hopes and plans, your very survival depends on your recovery. It may not make sense at the beginning but your order of priority should be: #1 Sobriety; #2 Physical and Mental Health; #3 Family Relationships; #4 Financial
  20. Professional Help: Your addiction may have been a subconscious way of self-medicating yourself for wounds you carry from your earlier life. It is important to work with a professional who understands sexual addiction or is willing to learn. This is another way to keep yourself on the path of recovery. Remember that recovery is much more than abstinence from sexually addictive behaviors. You may want to seek out group therapy, individual therapy, or both. If possible, including your spouse or partner in therapy, both individually and as a couple, can be a great benefit to the recovery of both and to your relationship. We also suffer from cognitive distortions (core beliefs): it is erroneous to think: “I am basically a bad, unworthy person;” “No one would ever love me as I am;” “My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others;” “Sex is my most important need.” These core beliefs provide the structure for many particular errors in thinking. Cognitive errors distort the experience of the sexual addict to conform to the shameful core beliefs. The particular errors also screen out any new, potentially corrective information. For example, the sexual addict who fundamentally believes that “no one will love me the way I really am” will set up relationships so that there is ample evidence of rejection of the true self and support for the false, public self. A professional therapist can help us better understand cognitive distortions and retrain our core beliefs.
  21. Recovery Partners: Being accountable to someone is an important anchor for sobriety. Make an agreement with someone to check in — daily if at all possible. That person should have a list of questions — very specific questions — to ask you and that you have agreed to answer honestly. Your partner may be a member of your group, a friend in recovery, your therapist, or a good friend. A recovery partner must be someone you trust and with whom you feel safe. Shaming by an accountability partner is not acceptable. It is not recommended that you ask your life partner to be your recovery partner. This tool can be a valuable addition to your sponsor.
  22. Recovery Plan: A recovery plan is a pre-determined way of expressing our sexuality consistent with our values, so that even when confused, we have a written guideline to help us. In defining our own sobriety, we make a list of all of our acting out behaviors. Making this list is very specific and is followed by a solemn commitment to yourself not to engage in those behaviors. We choose, one day and one situation at a time, not to engage in those behaviors. Set your bottom lines; discuss your bottom lines; know your bottom lines; observe your bottom lines. Read over your sexual recovery plan frequently. Remembering our goals helps us lose the craving to go back to the anguish and confusion we are beginning to ease out of. Most recovery plans include personal boundaries in addition to bottom lines from which we completely abstain. Boundaries are the “slippery” slopes that can became blurred or even non-existent when we were in our sexual addiction. Part of recovery is identifying appropriate boundaries or limits with respect to people, places and activities. For example, we might choose to set a boundary regarding keeping company with people who continue in their addictions. This is self-protective and healthy. When we were in our addiction there was nothing we would not do and nothing we felt we could not or should not do. Now, in recovery, we must set boundaries to keep ourselves healthy and safe. There is no right or wrong way to write a recovery plan for yourself. Some members benefit by seeing an existing plan in use.
  23. Relationships: Dating is a way of changing the instant gratification habit and getting to know more about ourselves and another person, before committing to any sexual decisions. We let go of self-serving power and prestige as driving motives.
  24. Reminders: Simple reminders can often be a powerful way to stay sober. For instance, posting small signs or post-its with affirmations or healthy reminders near your computer, your bathroom mirror, your car’s interior, or wherever you want to be “reminded” can be a gentle nudge to staying on the path of recovery.
  25. S.A.F.E. Formula: The “S.A.F.E.” Formula is an easy way to define addiction. If the following elements are present, then the person’s sexual problems could be called an addiction: “Secret; Abusive; Feelings; Empty.” 
    Secret — It is a secret. Anything that cannot pass public scrutiny will create the shame of a double life. 
    Abusive — It is abusive to self or others. Anything that is exploitive or harmful to others or degrades oneself will activate the addictive system. 
    Feelings — It is used to avoid or is a source of painful feelings. If sexuality is used to alter moods or results in painful mood shifts it is clearly part of the addictive process.
    Empty — It is empty of a caring committed relationship. Fundamental to the whole concept of addiction and recovery is the healthy dimension of human relationships. The addict runs a great risk by being sexual outside a committed relationship.
  26. Service:  Service is helping ourselves by helping others. Service includes participating in activities that support your Twelve Step group as a whole, including leading meetings, sponsoring, reaching out to newcomers, telling your story, serving as any trusted servant position, writing an article for the Journal https://slaafws.org/thejournal/, or volunteering in other ways. You may also serve by helping your neighbors, volunteering in your church, and so on. The benefit of service is not limited to serving in the recovery community. The benefit is in connecting with others through their needs rather than your own.
  27. Sharing: Being honest and vulnerable in front of fellow recovering addicts is frightening but worth it. Many of us believe we recover in direct proportion to our willingness to share. Some recovering addicts commit to talking during the discussion time in each meeting.
  28. Slogans: Slogans are simple statements that can be used in crisis situations, so that we have some basic guidelines. These include:
    One Day At a Time;
    Live and Let Live;
    Easy Does It;
    Progress, Not Perfection;
    First Things First;
    Keep It Simple;
    Let Go and Let God;
    HOW (How our program works: Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness);
    HALTS (Not allowing ourselves to become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stressed),
    Meeting-makers Make It,
    But For the Grace of God, … and many more.
  29. Socialising: Socialising is a way of breaking down our isolation and getting to know other people in a nonsexual context — at fellowship after meetings, in supportive organizations and groups, and in the community at large. Spend time with people. Isolation is a part of your addiction. Find ways to be in contact with people. Meetings are good, but the company of others is good too. The only limit is that those people must support your sobriety even if they don’t know you are an addict.
  30. Sponsorship: Sponsorship is two people with the same problem helping each other to work the program. It can provide a framework for a recovery plan and for doing the 12-Steps, and bring emotional support at difficult times. As part of the surrender process, we admit our weaknesses and we ask others for help. A sponsor is a recovering addict with more sobriety and program experience than you. Your sponsor should be someone with whom you can communicate. Find a sponsor immediately, even if they are only temporary. You can always change sponsors later if the relationship does not work out.
  31. Start a Meeting: While there are online meetings, some suggest that they have no local meetings to attend. SLAA Fellowship Wide Services provides help in creating new groups. Tradition 3 states, “The only requirement for S.L.A.A. membership is the desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. Any two or more persons gathered together for mutual aid in recovering from sex and love addiction may call themselves an S.L.A.A. group, provided that as a group they have no other affiliation.” No matter how new you feel that you are in recovery, you are most welcome to create a group, and this tool works toward “Meetings,” “Service,” “Sharing,” Support Network,” “Replace Behaviors with Healthy Ones,” “Socializing” and more.  It is worth the effort.
  32. Support Network: Meeting with other people to discuss your journey helps you to know you are not alone and allows you to get another perspective on your struggles. Cultivate communication with other recovering people between meetings, either by phone, the Internet, or in person; ask for support when needed. These relationships are best cultivated in non-crisis times.  Some recovering people commit to talk with someone everyday.
  33. Surrender: “Surrender to Win” is a slogan. Webster first defines surrender as: to yield to the power, control, or possession (of another upon compulsion or demand); to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another. So often newcomers “fight” for their recovery/sobriety by “white-knuckling” the symptoms of this dis-ease of addiction. Once we learn to surrender to the process of recovery, through the use of all of these tools, we begin to see how it can be easier to gain victory. If I was up for a boxing match with <insert any major boxer’s name here>, I would certainly loose if I really got into the ring.  For my own health, it is far better for me to surrender before the match, than to take a beating.
  34. Take the First Step:  Repeat the words “We admitted we were powerless over our sex and love addiction — that our lives had become unmanageable,” until the meaning begins to sink in. If we really accept that we have no power over our compulsion, we will be able to turn it over — to our Higher Power, to our sponsor, to the program.
  35. Telephone:  The telephone is your lifeline between meetings. Get phone numbers from other members in your program. Get used to calling someone daily. It is an important way to break out of the isolation that is so strongly a part of the disease. You may be shy and hesitant at first but by training yourself to call someone, it will be easy to place that call when that moment of crisis arises. And it will! Don’t tell yourself people don’t want to be bothered; phone calls are one of the ways we all stay sober. SLAA is a selfish program, and everything we do in it — including getting phone calls — is for our own sobriety. Try calling somebody with a lot of sobriety. In times of danger it’s more important than ever to “stick with the winners.”
  36. Think It Through: “Interrupt the acting out” by developing and memorizing a set of strategies to help you to avoid acting out (back to a well-written recovery plan). Postpone the slip, reminding yourself you can have it later but you’ll talk to someone first. Our feelings are real, but often very short-lived. Ask yourself, “will you really get what you want if you go through with this?” Don’t dwell on how exciting it’s going to be, but remind yourself of the misery that inevitably has to follow.
  37. Top Lines: Replace Behaviors with Healthy Ones: Break the habit pattern. We can’t get sober in a vacuum. We can’t simply stop destructive behavior. We have to replace it with healthy new activities. Often we have to be as compulsive for a time about sobriety as we were about acting out. Try taking creative actions you’ve never taken before. Prove to yourself you are capable of healthy actions by taking them. “In maintaining my sobriety, I find it more useful to keep in mind what I call my top line rather than my bottom line. My top line is what I do want for myself, my program goals. I want to integrate myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually; to relate to others from a state of wholeness; to live making decisions from a place of freedom and clarity rather than compulsion and confusion; to feel sufficiently safe to stay open enough to find the little realities of life moving, rather than needing to get dropped off a cliff to get a thrill. I want to be present, see things the way they are, and be glad to be alive.  These things are beginning to happen for me.” — Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous Basic Text, 270
  38. Twelve Steps:  Working the steps is the foundation of recovery; they are a set of spiritual practices for personal growth and recovery.  Meetings may keep you sober for some time, but the Twelve Steps are vital for a stable and happy recovery.  The Steps are the means by which you move from the problem of addiction to the solution of recovery.  You learn about the Steps by reading the literature, by attending Step-study meetings, and by working with a knowledgeable sponsor.  Read the Twelve Steps and work them.  Join a step study; discuss a step at your Twelve Step meetings, with your sponsor, therapist, recovery partner and others who are supportive of your recovery. But work the Steps!
    The SLAA booklet A Guide To The Steps is available here
    The SLAA Step Questions Workbook is available here
    A free AA step study guide, Steps by the Big Book – can be found at http://bigbooksteps.net
  39. Willingness:  Become willing.  Open your mind to the possibility of giving up the slip, rather than giving in to it.  It will feel that there’s no way you can break the power of your own will.  There is.  But it can only be done by taking a positive action.  Willingness is action.  Remember: There is hope; there is a future.
  40. Withdrawal:  Withdrawal — Gateway to Freedom, Hope, and Joy: “The pain of withdrawal is unique, special, even precious (although you probably don’t now think so). In a sense, the experience is you, a part of you which has been trying to surface for a long time. You have been avoiding or postponing this pain for a long time now, yet you have never been able to lastingly outrun it. You need to go through withdrawal in order to become a whole person. You need to meet yourself. Behind the terror of what you fear, withdrawal contains the seeds for your own personal wholeness. It must be experienced for you to realise, or make real, that potential for you and your life which has been stored there for so long.” 
    Excerpted from Chapter 5, The Withdrawal Experience, in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
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