Guide to Steps 1-3

Last Updated on 13 March 2024

Step One: “We admitted we were powerless over sex and love addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Step Two: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

Addiction is like living in a fun house. The insanity and unmanageability of addiction look normal to those who can see themselves only through the distorted lens of dysfunctional behaviour and its consequences. The warped mirrors of the addict make the bizarre look normal.

Patrick Carnes

The first step after finding a sponsor is to begin looking at your sexual acting out. What are the behaviours that are most problematic? What are the things that continue to get you into trouble? What brings the most shame?

The first 7 days

The first seven days are dedicated to this process – called setting bottom and top lines.
Completing this Worksheet (Setting Bottom & Top Lines) is a helpful element of the question for Day 7.

During the first seven days, we worked with our sponsor to decide on what behaviours we needed to stop in order to best support our recovery. We answered a question a day and read the answer to our sponsor who was there to listen, gently guide and give feedback, if we needed it. We answered each question in order and on the day so that our answers were as current as possible as to how we felt on that day.

Addiction is a pathological relationship to any mood-altering person, thing, substance, or activity that has life-damaging consequences.

John Bradshaw

Working the first 3 steps

The next 30 days working Steps one to three.

To start working the steps with a sponsor, we needed a copy of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, SLAA’s basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous, AA’s Big Book and, AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. As with the 7-day identification questions to determine our Bottom-Line behaviours, we answered a question per day and read it to our sponsor. At the end of the 30 days, our sponsor took us through a Step Three Ceremony and then stepped us up at a meeting to celebrate the completion of Steps One to Three. After the Step Three Ceremony to celebrate the completion of Steps One to Three, we started sponsoring fellow members of SLAA up to Step Three, if we felt ready to do so.

If we were sponsoring and were unavailable on a particular day, it was our responsibility to let our sponsee know that they could share their writing in an outreach call with another fellow, arrange a different time, an email exchange or read the answer in a voice message. If, for some reason, we were unavailable for a longer period of time, it was our responsibility to find another temporary sponsor for our sponsee. Sometimes this was our own sponsor.

We also let our sponsee know that if they consistently failed to meet agreed boundaries without good reason, for example not calling us at the agreed time for three consecutive days without good reason, we may decide to no longer sponsor them.

We encouraged our sponsees to share at SLAA HOW meetings after 14 days of sobriety or as the meeting allowed. We were aware that some meetings restricted or prioritised sharing by those with more than 14 days of recovery so that the first part of the meeting focused on carrying the message, and a message of hope.

If we, as sponsors, slipped, we notified our own sponsor and all our sponsees, giving them the option to continue with us or not. We did not stand up as a sponsor or accept new sponsees until the time agreed with our sponsor. If we had a slip, we shared after 7 days of sobriety. We knew all of the above was designed to heal and to support us whilst we regained sobriety.

Use this worksheet with your sponsor to work out how to define your personal sobriety – Setting Bottom and Top Lines.

These 40 questions have been developed to provide some guidance about your sexual and addictive experiences.

These 30 questions will walk you through the first 3 steps in SLAA. These can be very intense days of exploring and discovery.

Key Documents and Readings

SLAA HOW Guide (Steps 1-3)

AA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions



40 Questions for self-diagnosis

The 40 questions are designed to help you highlight if you have a sex and love addiction.

Complete the 40 questions survey
40 questions survey form

Bottom and Top Lines

A key element of the SLAA HOW concept is that the program is designed to achieve not only sobriety but also recovery. Part of this realisation is that most addicts arrive at the program with overwhelming shame and often a history of family dysfunction. Each person working the program is invited to reflect with their sponsor on what is necessary for them to achieve the freedom and new life that they desire. Part of this is refraining from a certain set of bottom-line behaviours but part is also adopting a new set of life-giving top-line behaviours and self-care systems.

Is it love – or is it addiction?

Addicted to sex? Addicted to Love?
This pamphlet helps with identification of sex and love addiction.
>>> PDF download freely available from SLAA FWS.

Love or Addiction?

SLAA – Addicted to sex – Addicted to love

Additional Readings

These are additional readings that will assist in answering the first 30 questions

Alcoholics Anonymous Readings

Slip Questions

When a person working the steps has a bust or slip of their self-defined bottom-lines, they are required to answer a slip question each day and share the answer with their sponsor until they have regained their previous sobriety and can resume working the step questions. For example, a person who busts on day 15 will answer 15 slip questions and then resume working the steps on question 15 or 16 (depending on whether they had the bust before or after completing that question). The aim and intention is for a sponsee to have at least 30 days of sobriety by the conclusion of the first 3 steps.

See what others (anonymously) have chosen as their patterns of Sex and Love Addiction: Characteristics Report

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