Getting sober and into recovery means becoming a mature, responsible, accountable adult. The self-centeredness and self-involvement of active sexual addiction makes awareness of the impact of acting out beyond the grasp of the addict. But as recovery develops, the recovering addict begins to grasp the magnitude of the harm the addiction has wrought. Step 8 asks that we make "a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all". This exercise takes us through that step.
Toss a stone into a pool of still water. The ripples spread out in concentric circles until they wash against the shore of the pool. Then they wash back toward the center and again to the further edge of the pool. Depending on the size of the stone and the pool and the force of your toss, the pool eventually appears calm again. Of course we know that the energy transferred from the stone to the water further transfers to the shore. Although the visible effects dissipate in a bit of time, in fact, the effect of the tossed stone continues to impact the world forever.
So it is with all of actions including the actions of sexual addiction. Of course, when we are active in our addictions, we are unable to see the impact of the energy we discharge. That is partly why it is important, in recovery, to take account of the harm we have done - to make ourselves accountable - and to make amends. Focus only on the direct impacts of your addiction (don't include work you didn't do, money you didn't earn or contribute to charity, friendships you didn't develop, and so forth). Thinking only of the direct effects of acting out, you realize that those you victimized, used, hurt, betrayed, objectified, abandoned, or neglected, retain the residue of your actions. Now that you are in recovery, you know that none of our actions were victimless. At a bear minimum, your own integrity was damaged each time you acted out. The people who posed for the photos you consumed or who engaged in impersonal sex acts with you objectified and dehumanized themselves in those acts. Those you impacted act themselves, in turn, partly out of the impact of your action. Those actions may not be sexual acting out. It may be being less responsive parents, less productive employees, less responsible members of the community, and so forth. Your acts had the impact of damaging the self-esteem or ability to trust of other people and that ripple continues on, not only in those lives, but in all the lives touched by those lives. There is a continuing effect.
Think roughly of the number of people you directly effected by your acting out. Just guess. If you think you directly hurt 100 people, then for the sake of illustration, think that each of them then passed along that hurt, in some form, to 100 people. At that secondary step, you negatively influenced 10,000 people. Each of those people passes on the hurt or anger or damaged self-image to 100 people; you have now effected a million people in some way. At the fourth step, you have effected 100 million people, and at the fifth step, 10 billion. You can stop counting at that point because there are only 6 billion of us on the planet. Of course the magnitude of the consequence of our actions on each individual diminishes at each step. But it does continue. By the way, if you think you directly effected only 10 people then you still impact the whole world, but it takes 10 steps. If you directly effected 1000 people, it takes only four steps to affect the whole world.
The central point is this. Obsessive, self-absorbed addictive behaviors, in some way - however small, make the world a poorer place for everyone.
Now think about the changes in recovery. Each day you refrain from doing harm, you slow the flow of negativity in the world. Better still, each act of compassion, understanding, helpfulness, or even appropriate self-care, adds a ripple of positively to the world. Each time you act in accord with your healthy values, you are making amends.
This exercise is really just a head exercise. Think it through for yourself. What do your healthy values tell you about how you want the world to be? What gift would you give to each person in the world each day? Allow yourself to become mindful that each day you have your six-billionth of the votes about how the world will be. In recovery, that choosing is about avoiding harm and doing good. That is making amends in very clear, direct, healthy, and continuing way.