In December 2004, I decided to attend a five-day intensive workshop for women who struggled with sexual addictions. One of the group activities I was a part of involved figuring out how to get out of a maze while blindfolded.
Well, I am all about solving puzzles and was up to the challenge, or so I thought. My five group members and myself were led into a room blindfolded and told the rules for this activity. We were not allowed to help each other and we could not go over or under anything. Then the therapist said “Go!” and I was all in. I love being competitive and I was determined to win. All we had to do was figure out how to get out of the maze of ropes, tables and chairs, then raise our hand and whisper to the therapist how to get out.
So, I grabbed the rope and started moving along the rope, chairs and tables. It was comical how all six of us got very serious and when we bumped into each other going in opposite directions, a lot of tense words and yelling occurred. It didn’t bother me; I just let go of the rope, let the person pass, regrabbed the rope and kept moving. I was determined to keep a map of the maze in my head and solve this problem before anyone else.
I was very surprised and puzzled when I realized I was back in the same place where I started, having gone all the way around the maze with no answer in how to get out. So I figured I must have missed something along the way so started around again. There were more tense words and growling by my group mates as we kept running into each other. I just kept quiet, focused, let people go by, and presumed studying the maze by touch.
Again, I was back were I started. Hmmmm! The therapist gave us our first clue – “Think outside the box!” I hate that clue! I think too logically at times and never know what that clue really means. So I pondered that the solution may be found in the middle of the maze. So I let go of the rope and ventured out into the middle of the maze. I was determined and very focused! I overheard one of the therapists say to the other, “Look at Carol.” I knew my face had to have a very firm furrow in my forehead as I concentrated and explored the maze for any clues. But the middle of the maze offered no clues either.
Then the therapist gave a second clue that sounded like a recovery statement of some sort (I’ve forgotten what the exact clue was). I pondered a bit more. Having been in a recovery group back home for over a year, I suddenly had an Aha! lightbulb moment.
I thrust my hand high into the air, eagerly awaiting a therapist to get to me. I excitedly cupped my hands up to her ear and whispered, “I need help!” The therapist grabbed my hand, led me to the side, untied the rope, let me out of the maze, and as I took the blindfold off, pointed to the other therapist retying the rope back together. I, along with one other group member, had solved the maze at the same time.
Then the therapist that had led me out of the maze asked me, “Carol, do you realize your entire body is trembling?” I looked down at me body and hands and saw that I was a shaking mess. I came to the realization that my head was excited that I had solved the puzzle, yet my body was saying to me that asking for help is not how this puzzle is supposed to be solved. I should have been able to independently get myself out of that maze! Yet I failed! And that was not okay.
This parallels with how I had struggled for over ten years to stop by myself in using my addiction to pornography, masturbation and fantasizing, to cope with stress and negative emotions. I tried many times to stop on my own and failed every time. This reinforced my shame in myself at being a failure and a “bad Christian woman.”
After all six of us finally asked for help to get out of the maze, we debriefed our experiences. There had been a lot of stress, cussing, angry outbursts, and feelings of shame and failure by all of us. Even the two therapists struggled with watching us struggle and their desire to rescue us.
Here is what I learned through this experience. I cannot do things on my own. My desire to solve this puzzle by myself was totally based on pride and self-sufficiency. Yet, I had to realize that there was no way out of this maze. I had to get past my denial that I could do this by myself. This is exactly what Step 1 is all about.
We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 7:18 NIV
My body’s physical response was about having to admit I was powerless over solving the maze and that I needed help. I ate some humble pie that day.
I also learned that help is truly available when I ask for it. There are people who have walked a similar path in their lives who are eager and very willing to provide the help we each need. As I have now participated in a recovery ministry 12 Step group for over 14 years, I have helped many others overcome their own puzzles (addictions and compulsions) and have seen others helping me as well.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
I have made these two Bible verses my ministry verses. God has helped me overcome my sin of lust through the help of others – counselors, pastors, accountability partners, peers and friends. I am forever grateful for the help I have received and I intend to continue to give help to others in the same ways.