When we get clean and sober from alcohol and/or other drugs, we often transfer our addictive behavior to other areas of our lives, such as shopping, food issues, thrill-seeking and so forth. Sex, love and relationships are some of the most common substitute addictions. Often they co-exist with our chemical addictions, and when that is the case we’re doubly in trouble, because we may continue acting out sexually and fail to gain all the benefits of our program of recovery.
These issues can — and often do — plague us from an extremely early age, pre-pubescence and even earlier. They can arise from abandonment, abuse, innocent activities with other children, and other introduction to sexuality at an inappropriate age. They shape our entire lives, and are not only difficult to normalize, but often even difficult to detect. It is not uncommon for people with five, ten, and twenty years in other recovery programs to become aware of and struggle with sexual and relationship issues.
Sex and relationship related addictions are some of the most difficult and insidious. They foster feelings of guilt and shame, creating major problems socially, maritally and often legally. Even acted out without anyone else’s knowledge, they allow us to dive into fantasy and distract ourselves from the reality around us that is critical to living a healthy life.
Because sexuality, like food and other behavioral addictions, is so much a part of normal life, it is easy for it to get out of control, and difficult for us to regain sane, sober control once that happens. Furthermore, in the case of sex-related addictions, the entire thing can occur in our heads! There is no apparent relapse. We don’t “pick up” and thus officially admit that our addiction is again out of control. We can enjoy our fantasies, intrigues and romantic encounters on the Internet, without ever meeting another person face-to-face.
When we do interact directly with others, we often idolize them and make them the center of our existence. Alternatively, we objectify them, making them simply objects of desire and lust, and stripping them of their humanity. Sometimes, because of past trauma, fear, or inability to relate to others in a healthy way, we become sexually and/or socially anorectic, choosing to avoid any kind of intimate relationship.
Because of the importance of coming to grips with our sexuality in order to live healthy lives, form stable relationships and bond with others, I’m including a list of fellowships (often referred to as the “S Fellowships”) and other resources that offer help to those who choose sexual sobriety.
This form of addiction has only recently come into the public eye. Because of that (and because of the shame carried by all sex addicts), the fellowships have not expanded their membership as rapidly as some of the other more “mainstream” organizations. For that reason, it might be necessary to check out several of them in order to find meetings close enough to your location. Don’t forget, however, that they all offer long-distance contact via phone, and several also have meetings online.
Finally, do be aware that all of these groups take anonymity extremely seriously! All meetings are closed, and those who attend must identify as appropriate attendees according to the standards of the particular fellowship. Your participation will be protected, and you will be expected to protect the anonymity of others to the extent that it does not come into conflict with the law. However, they or you may feel obligated to report things that may be illegally harmful to third parties — and may, in fact, be required by law or subpoena to do so. Thus, care is recommended when sharing.
COSA – for those whose lives have been affected by sex addicts
S-Anon Family Groups – also for spouses, families and others involved with sex addicts
The Sexual Offender Resource Center – education and healing for adjudicated sex offenders