Disclaimer- Sex Addicts Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc. ask that addicts keep fellow addicts anonymous, hence the name; therefore, all names and verbatim sentences are fabricated to protect those involved. Also, members of the SAA program depicted in this article, as stated in their booklet, “are not [SAA] representatives or claim to be spokespersons for the press, radio, TV, films , or the Internet.
One month ago, I briefly dated a sex addict. It’s hard to be sure, because I’m fairly certain that he’s also a pathological liar. Then again, from what I know, many addicts are also liars.
I only went out with him because he wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept showing up at my job.
“So, when are we going out to dinner?”
It went on like that for a couple of weeks, until finally, I relented. We went to Taste of Siam. Over dinner, he opened up about his wife who suddenly died of cancer four months ago. I realized he was still wearing a wedding band.
“Isn’t that a little quick to be dating?” I asked my 81-year-old friend Annette, afterwards.
“No, you’d be surprised how quick men are able to move on.”
I figured Annette knew what she was talking about, being 81 and all. But only a week into our frenzied fling, my stalker opened up to me at Spot Coffee.
“I’m a sex addict,” he said, looking over his thick black frames. “It’s how I’ve been grieving. It’s hard. I’m dating multiple cougars…” He began to scour the Spot scene with frantic eyes. “You’re the only non-cougar I am seeing.”
He then called over a random woman and invited her into a threesome with us. Not many situations embarrass me, but that did. I never spoke to him again.
He still stalks me at my job.
That confession of his has never left my mind. I don’t think about it daily, but sometimes I wonder if he was truly sincere. Probably not. But that isn’t stopping me from investigating the reality of being a sex addict by attending a local chapter meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous.
I called a phone number I found on the Sex Addicts Anonymous database two days ago; apparently there’s a suburban Christian fellowship that hosts many AA and SA meetings. I pull up outside; a few women are smoking cigarettes in their cars. Armed with a venti Starbucks, I attempt to project a seen-it-all, done-it-all demeanor. In reality, I have no idea what to expect.
I’m worried that my all-black outfit is too sexy for Sex Addicts Anonymous. I mean, vintage leather mini skirt? Hugo Boss blazer? Motorcycle boots? Stockings?
Upon entering the building, I’m greeted with inspirational Christian banners. A few women are heading into an alcove at the left side of a roomy foyer. I follow them. A pot of coffee is steaming on its burner, but it appears to be decaf. Fuck! They start talking about “back when they were drinking.”
“Um, I think I have the wrong meeting,” I meekly express.
“This is a womens-only AA meeting,” says a 30-something with a pleasant face. “What group are you looking for?”
“Well…. well, I must have the wrong place…Maybe it got rescheduled?” I say, walking into the carpeted foyer.
“What group are you looking for?” she asks again, following me.
I swivel around once we arrive in a shadowy corner.
“The sex addicts!”
“Oh, they meet in the basement pretty much every day.”
I go down a few steps into an olive green annex. A guy in an olive green dress shirt, cuffed loose-fitting slacks, and orthopedic shoes beckons me into an adjacent room.
“Is this – Sex Addicts Anonymous? I called Tuesday – are you Bruce?”
The guy in olive green confirms that he is Bruce. He facilitates the meetings. I look around; only one other person besides Bruce is present. He’s well into his 70’s and wears sweatpants. There are a few mismatched recliners and armchairs to choose from, but I opt for the folding chair by the window.
I’m surprised there are only three of us here. That is, if you include me, and I’m not even an addict. Or am I? Why the hell am I here? Why do I have a compulsion to do these things? My thoughts aren’t that different from the others in this building. I’m given a blue pamphlet which lays out today’s meeting, two green books about beating sex addiction (which Bruce wrote, impressively), and the monthly group newsletter. We begin with the Feelings Check.
“Russell, would you like to start, since we have a newcomer?”
Russell begins by choosing two adjectives to sum up his feelings of the day.
“I feel appreciated -”
“Yes you are!” Bruce reinforces, winking at me.
“And, um, hopeful.”
“Yes you do!” I chime in this time. For some reason this makes me blush. Then it’s my turn. I start to sweat, and roll up the sleeves of my blazer. This exposes the burn from my stove on my wrist and armful of bracelets. Great, I probably look like a cutter.
“Hi, I’m —-, and I am a recovering sex addict. Today I feel calm, because well, this is a pretty laid back setting – and inspired, because I like meeting new people.”
“Yes you are!”
We then recite the Serenity Prayer (“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”) together. However, the group maintains a casual, open, accepting, non-religiously affiliated vibe. I actually learn a lot from Bruce. For example, AA meetings (12 Step programs) originated in the 1930’s, when people asked God to fix problems instead of seeking medical explanations. Bruce finds error in the fact these methods are still used today to mend complex addictions. The man who developed AA in the 30’s apparently got sober from alcohol, but remained a smoker, compulsive spender, and sex addict until his death.
Right in the middle of our Validations – “I am acceptable, competent, and focused; I trust my own thoughts and emotions; I have positive expectations for today and for tomorrow, etc” another man walks into the room. He’s clutching a liter of Coke and filling the room with the aroma of a Marb.
“Are you here for the meeting?” asks Bruce.
“Yeah, uh, SA?”
“Yes, are you Patrick? Weren’t you here last week?”
“Yes I was.”
He takes a seat, and I catch him looking at me many times. He probably wants to bone, I think to myself. But what’s so erroneous about that?
We continue the meeting, reading through a chapter in the green book about the basis of sex addiction. According to Bruce, his group uses the most up to date, medically sound information regarding the nature of addiction. While medical knowledge 25 years ago relied on pegging addiction as a “disease,” that isn’t entirely true. Also, the only addiction relying heavily on genetics is alcoholism.
Rather, addictions which are “learned behaviors,” like sex, shopping, eating disorders, and gambling, can also be un-learned. It all goes back to conditioning and feeling abandoned as a child. This “trauma” increases the likelihood you will develop the Addict Personality.
I wasn’t abandoned as a child, but I have an Addict Personality. Bruce says some people with Addict Personalities weren’t traumatized as children. Addiction can just form from faulty wiring in the brain, dopamine and seratonin receptors. He tells me you can work hard and re-wire the brain, if you work at it every day for three years.
Staring down at my sex addict literature, I’m forgetting that I’m not really a sex addict. Or am I? No, I’m not. Our generation just has a problem with intimacy as a whole. I’m sure some will wind up in SAA when they’re a sweatpants-wearing age 70. But while I’m not a full-blown addict of any sort, I know that I chemically possess the Addict Personality. Sex addiction was never my problem, not at all. I’ve already marked a nearby wine store, so I can buy a bottle of pinot grigio after this meeting. Am I an alcoholic? There have been downward spirals and self-destructive benders, over the years. But I think I manage to toe the line before I hit full blown addict rock bottom. I have too much to lose; I always have to keep myself in check.
The meeting draws to a close, and I thank Bruce. I might return, because I don’t want Bruce to feel Sad during the Feelings Check, sad that I never showed up again. Sad that I gave up my recovery and returned to an addiction that I never really had.
This thought almost makes me burst into tears, as I walk to my car, smelling a clove cigarette in the night air.
But I need to stop with always putting others’ needs/wants before my own…I need to affirm my own needs/wants…Maybe I will check out the womens-only AA…
I am competent and capable.