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Do I really have to keep going to meetings for the rest of my life?

Posted Feb 22 2011 12:00am

The short answer is no, but you should. That makes for a dull blog post, so (of course) I’ll elaborate.

Lately I’ve been doing very well. It’s unexpected because I just had a relapse and I figured I’d be right back to square one, which seemed to be the case for a while, but somehow, I got fast-forwarded. Early in recovery there were times it seemed like every cell in my body was screaming for sex and denying myself any sexual release was impossible. I called up complete strangers and talked about how desperately I wanted to act out. It was absolutely humiliating to admit that here I was, a grown woman, well-educated, good family, plenty of money, nice life, and I absolutely couldn’t keep my own hands out of my own pants. I don’t care who you are or what you do, admitting you can’t stop is humbling.

Idiots in those meetings said stupid shit like, “Keep coming back,” and “It works if you work it.” “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.” Nauseating. “It gets better.”

I was so desperate, I kept coming back. I followed suggestions, and I didn’t quit. Eventually, I went to rehab, and there, finally away from an abusive therapist, I began to get better. Withdrawal ended and it didn’t kill me. I began to learn how to live without using my sexuality to self-medicate. I experienced sobriety, which felt startlingly good. What I thought would be learning to like a living hell actually turned out to be an absence of insatiable hunger.

That was over 4 years ago. When I got out of rehab, I was determined to be a success story. I wasn’t going to be one of those who quit going to meetings and gradually (or not so gradually) drifted back into addiction. I’m a success! But sometimes it’s hard to keep going to meetings because frankly, my life no longer revolves around my sex addiction or my recovery to sex addiction.

It’s hard to explain. When my children were babies and toddlers, my friends and I would get together at each others’ houses and visit while the kids nursed and played. Invariably we’d end up telling birth stories. We told these stories to each other over and over and over. I knew how my friend’s son was whisked off because they thought he had a possible heart defect because I’d heart it a hundred times. She knew that I screamed as they x-rayed me to make sure the baby’s head would fit after 22 hours of labor. We shared details that were so intimate, stuff that you don’t normally discuss even in a group of all women. That went on for years as more babies were born and women moved away or joined our group until eventually we stopped. It was as if we’d talked everything out, processed our stories and naturally understood that it was time to move on.

That’s how I feel when I go to meetings now. The story of being abused isn’t all that interesting to me anymore. And most of what I do for recovery doesn’t really have much to do with addiction as much as it does with just plain living.

When I relapsed, I got in touch with two other sex addicts, one of whom wasn’t entirely sure he qualified, and we started a local meeting. It’s been great, but it’s also been kind of a pain. Sometimes I don’t feel like going but I’m the one with the key. I’ve been kind of hoping that the whole thing would just fizzle out since I’m not really in desperate need of meetings now that I’m doing well.

But the other day, I was reminded of why it’s a good idea to keep going to meetings, even after you’re doing well: newcomers.

Everybody is scared to death at their first meeting. It’s a very vulnerable time. Will anybody recognize me? What will I say? Will anybody there be as bad as I am? Will there be child molesters? Some women wonder how the heck walking into a room full of male sex addicts is going to help, since that’s pretty much a sexual fantasy come true. Some women are physically afraid. Is this a cult? Am I crazy? Can this really help?

Having a newcomer at the meeting reminded me that I can help. I’ve been there and I know there’s a way out, something a newcomer has all but given up on. And it reminded me to be grateful that I’m not ruled by compulsive sexual behavior OR past sexual abuse.

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