I hope I never forget the day I shared with my sponsor about the struggle I was having with lust and with staying sober.
I was working hard against lust. I was fighting it. I definitely wanted to stay sober, and it was everything I could do to stay sober. If fighting it and struggling with it was the solution, I was solving my problem. If trying harder was going to keep me sober, then I had every intention of doing just that. I had some months of sobriety and I had no intention of giving those up.
But I had been down this road before.... and had always, eventually (and inevitably) acted out again. Eventually I would tire, my efforts would fail, and I would give in to lust. And after giving in to lust, a loss of sobriety inevitably followed. On one hand I knew, and had to admit to myself, that I was powerless over lust but, on the other hand, I knew that I must try harder. My only option was to try harder and struggle more!
My sponsor had an answer for me in the form of a question: "Why are you struggling; why don't you stop struggling?" At first I was completely without any response to give. It was as if the question didn't even make sense to me. I wanted to say, "Are you kidding?!! Of course I have to struggle. If I don't struggle, I'll fail, I'll give in, I'll act out. There's nothing else I can do but try harder!" (I didn't respond in that way because by then I knew my sponsor well enough to know that I was missing something that he had already got).
I didn't understand.
What I came to understand was that struggling is not surrendering. I didn't need to struggle more, I needed to simply surrender. I needed to surrender the next temptation, the next trigger, the next disturbance, the next "whatever" to the loving God of my understanding, and He would do for me what I could not do for myself. He would receive from me that which I freely gave. He would provide the power over lust that I don't have. And I don't have it, because I am powerless over lust and always will be.
For me, true surrender means that I really want to be rid of it; I really want to give that up. It doesn't do me any good to hold on to a lust thought, or keep looking at a picture or a person, or living in the fantasy in my mind. If I won't let it go (surrender), God isn't going to just yank it out of my hands (or out of my head). He seems to value my free will far too highly to violate it, to take it from me when I'm not yet ready to surrender it. Instead, He's waiting for me to surrender my will to Him and, in so doing, surrender the temptations and triggers to Him, surrender my lust to him.
Learning that I was really powerless over lust and thus in no position to take care of it myself, by struggling more and working harder, prepared me for Step 2. It helped me see that without God I had no hope. It also prepared me for Step 3, by proving to me that without surrendering my will and life to Him, I would never find the freedom I so desperately wanted.