Rarely does a week pass without my hearing the singularly disturbing slogan "I am sober from my bottom lines". What does this mean - why might it be "disturbing" - and what is a "bottom line" anyway? In the 12-step "Anonymous" fellowship vernacular, generally speaking, a "bottom line" refers to one's unique way or method of ritualized "using" behavior. What does THAT mean? It means, that a sex addict for example, achieves their sexual gratification by their preferred means, which is unique for that individual. It might mean one person frequents "massage" parlors or "lingerie" shops, another sex addicted individual frequents prostitutes, and still another sexually addicted individual masturbates to a highly specific type of pornography on the internet. Each of these are referred to as their "bottom line", which in turn signifies the absolute quintessential means of acting out and getting stoned, sexually speaking. It is their most potent form of the drug, so-to-speak. And if one's "bottom line" is some variety of internet porn, then their "bottom line" might mean staying off the computer entirely. If achieved, then they have successfully abstained from their "bottom line" behaviors. But wait just a minute here! Let us not ever confuse "bottom line" cessation with drug-of-choice cessation or being sober! If your "bottom line" is internet porn and you abstain from the internet, does that mean you are sober? NO! It means you are no longer using the internet. If an alcoholic's "bottom line" is the local pub after work until closing, and that individual stays out of that and every bar on the planet, are they sober? NO! If that person does not ingest alcohol, they are sober. Period. Very simple. A "bottom line" in no way infers sobriety. If a sex addict does not engage in sexual activity, they are by definition, sober. Period. If they engage in sexual fantasy in their head and it does not lead to sexual activity (for the moment anyway!), then they are sober! They are also only a stone's throw away from engaging in sexual activity, but that is another thread for another day. Intention neither infers nor implies behavior - at least scientifically speaking and outside a court of law.
The operational definition for sobriety, is very, very clear. It means not having the drug in your system. If you are an alcoholic, it means not having any alcohol (ethyl or otherwise) in your system. If you are a sex addict, it quite simply means not having any sex (with yourself or someone other than you!). Period. In the scientific community "operational definitions" are essential components for communicating. If your physician diagnoses you with a cracked rib, then what you have, is a cracked rib. And you have a cracked rib whether or not you were diagnosed in Austria, Bolivia, or Paramus, New Jersey. And you have a cracked rib whether or not you believe in the concept of ribs, and regardless of what religion, gender, ethnicity or culture you subscribe to. Like it or not, a cracked rib is a cracked rib, and it is not subject to your belief to the contrary. Period. Even if you do not believe in doctors as I continuously hear people say (last I heard, doctors were not subsumed, nosologically speaking, under the category "belief system, but I digress...), you have a cracked rib whether you like it or not, diagnostically speaking. Ditto for sobriety. Sobriety is defined as not having that chemical in your system, or not having the chemical that is released by a set of behaviors released into your system. It is tantamount to uttering the slogan in "AA" (alcoholics anonymous) that one is "sober from beer". Sober from BEER? Is that some sort of joke? If one is sober in the "AA" fellowship, it can only mean one singular and overriding thing - that one has not consumed alcohol. ANY alcohol. Beer is alcohol.
There are some "S" programs, that apparently utilize variations on a theme. What theme you understandably ask? Bill W's theme of course! Meaning, there is "AA" and then there are non-"AA" programs. And according to "AA", and I might interject for the record, and the entire scientific community on the planet, in "AA", one is sober because one is not drinking or otherwise getting alcohol in their body. Period. If you are an alcoholic, you are sober if you abstain from consuming anything containing alcohol including cough syrup. "AA" does not argue the point. Why? Because clarity is an essential ingredient when working with an addicted brain. "Recovery" is another issue altogether, and more on that in another post. But back to the basics. If you are a member of "AA" and you claim you are sober, then you are claiming you are free from the ingestion of alcohol. Period. If you are a member of "NA" (narcotics anonymous) and you are claiming you are sober, then you are claiming you are free from the intake of drugs. Period. Pot is a drug, and if you are smoking it, eating it, or otherwise having it in your body, you are not sober. Period. So why all the fuss? Because for whatever reason (and actually it is precisely the rationale that is so disturbing - but more on this later), the "S" program, some "SLAA" programs in particular, not only think it is OK to break this spectacularly crucial point of the program, but it actually encourages it's members to talk in terms of being sober from their "bottom lines". This is not only a break in the operational definition of "sobriety", but it in fact, prevents the sexually addicted addict from being or staying sober in the first place! How so? Because one of the most common misconceptions in the entire "S" fellowship, is that it makes a difference whether or not you engage in sex with your self (AKA masturbation), or whether you engage in sex with a person other than you! Let us be very, very clear here. Your brain does not know the difference WHO it is having sex with. It simply knows that a particular part of your brain lights up like a Vegas slot machine when sex occurs.
When a sex addicted individual engages in sex, they are, so-to-speak, off to the races, such that a barrage of dopamine (among other neurochemicals) are released which in turn prevent adequate (or any) amounts of the important neuropeptides vassopressin and oxytocin from release, and the executive functions of the predominantly right prefrontal cortex becomes anesthetized or numbed, and you are, in a word, stoned. The non-sober sex addict is dopaminergically drunk, and at that point, what you did or did not do with or to your "bottom line" could not be more irrelevant. The "bottom line" helps the addict to recognize and understand their triggers, behaviors, and other important psychological factors. But please, let us not use the horridly inaccurate and dangerously misleading slogan of being SOBER from a "bottom line". The reason the 12-step programs work so well is based upon two important and overriding original concepts of Bill W. He stated that sobriety is achieved and maintained in fellowship with other alcoholics, and that the message which must be carried to and by addicts everywhere, is simple to understand, straightforward in its intention, and standardized in its message. He did not know about the science of the brain, just like calcium-deficient children who chew on chalk did not know they were calcium deficient (chalk from the now outdated slate chalk boards are calcium-based which is why "Tums" tastes like chalk!). Nonetheless, the message must be that only when the sex addict has approximately 90 days of no sex, can their brain begin to heal and their recovery begin.