To understand the connection between sexual sobriety and chastity one must first define sexual sobriety. The definition of sexual sobriety used by the Saint Joseph Men of Integrity Group is no sex with self or partners other than your spouse within a heterosexual marriage, and any sexual behavior used to medicate negative emotions, whether within a marriage or not. This definition is very difficult for many to adhere and no one lives it perfectly, especially with the practice of avoiding sexual behaviors that are used to medicate negative emotions. One example might be the man who uses his wife for sex because his request for sex is his attempt to hide his infidelity. Another example might be the single man who fantasizes about a woman he works with, undressing her with his eyes, all because he feels lonely and inadequate to actually talk with her and treat her as a person. Even though living a sober life is very difficult it is attainable through the combination of 12 step work and practicing Catholic spirituality. So where to start?
A good starting point is to take an inventory of the sinful sexual behaviors, identify your triggers, danger zones, rituals, and set clear boundaries around those behaviors to stop them (Step 1). The best Catholic spirituality practice to use in conjunction with this step work is to practice the virtues of chastity and temperance. Why will chastity help me? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church a chaste person is someone who has integrated their inner thought life with its outward expression as a gift to another person, which then means, that expression of sexuality is opposed to actions that would harm another person. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states the “chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.” (CCC 2338) The examples given in the previous paragraph are all examples of unchaste living (there are many more), and the man who is living this way is already living a double life and has duplicity in speech. Becoming addicted to these acts is very likely and may destroy your marriage, family, friendships, work life, and leave you unhappy, afraid, depressed, anxious, and lonely. Developing the virtue of chastity, a human virtue, will help you combat these harmful sexual behaviors that will help you experience the highest virtue, already offered to you by God, of charity. Think of it this way, someone living a double life with duplicity of speech is essentially a liar and cheat which is not charitable. In fact, you are taking from another which then also makes you a thief. Make sense! The very act of taking Step 1 (recommended to be done with a sponsor) is taking action to show your desire of chastity. A warning to you while writing your Step 1 is to be aware that you will be tempted to fall into despair and self-loathing. Some suggested practices to help you combat this are given below:
- Pick 2 other human virtues that you can practice during the week. Keep a journal of how you were able to practice them and the effects on you and other people. See list of human virtues at end of blog post.
- Attend confession as often as needed (weekly is recommended)
- Develop a prayer life. Read scripture and pray the Rosary daily are good recommendations. Listen to Bishop Barron’s podcast on ways to pray better https://www.wordonfireshow.com/episode31/