I have toiled for months about writing this piece, but recent events have forced my hand and brought the subject to the fore front, causing me some painful memories and a fury of thoughts. So, because this is a place of sharing, I will share with you. Even after all these years sometimes the pain still rears it’s ugly head.
I, along with every other spouse or partner that I have ever known, am uncomfortable with the fact that many Sexual Addiction 12 step groups include both men and women. Why am I uncomfortable? Well, I think that’s quite obvious to most non Sex Addicts, but just humor me while I explain.
I believe that our personal sexuality is an intimate subject that should not usually be shared in mixed company. Now, I’m no prude–on the contrary I’m one of those old hippies of the ‘make love not war’ era, but even I can’t imagine sharing my deepest, darkest secrets about my fantasies and masturbatory or sexual preferences in a group of casually known mixed company. That is just not socially acceptable to me.
Yet, in Sexual Addiction 12 step groups all over the country men and women sit together in a circle and share their most intimate sexual secrets. Now, maybe if I believed that all of these individuals were totally committed to recovery and did not have a wicked thought in their head about the person of the opposite sex who is describing their struggles to resist their wildly out of control sexual urges, I might just feel a little more comfortable. But, let’s face it, that is not the case. Both Larry and I are perplexed and confused about all the people in these meetings who continue to act out and who expect to act out as a part of their recovery.
The typical joke about people going to these meetings just to find sex partners is really no joke at all. A list of phone numbers of the members of the group is handed out at each meeting to offer support for those who need a friend. Well, in the beginning of his recovery Larry used this list to hook up with a woman who was in one of his Sex Addiction 12 step groups. He said that if he was not in the place he is today that his mind would be swirling with thoughts and fantasies about the women in his groups.
Because of a recent very minor, yet troublesome to me, situation that occurred in one of his 12 step meetings I asked Larry if he would consider finding another group, and he has agreed. (In fact, as I was writing this he came upstairs with a list of meetings in our area that he is going to try, along with maps of each meeting. Because his addiction includes prostitutes he stays away from any areas that could be ‘slippery’). In my mind, being in some of these mixed sex groups is like parading a hooker, who is handing out free samples, in front of these men. It’s like someone coming to an AA meeting and watching another member swigging on a bottle of whiskey
The reason I have toiled so much about writing this is because 12 step groups do serve a valid and positive function in the recovery of Sexual Addiction and I did not want to discourage this piece of recovery for anyone coming to this site for support. Many other factors are necessary and important in recovery from Sexual Addiction such as counseling, self evaluation, boundaries and a written recovery plan, but the 12 step groups are a way for the addict to find a safe place to discuss their issues. So, I do advise women to urge their spouses to attend. But, like myself in the beginning of Larry’s recovery, I think many women do not realize that a majority of these groups include not only men but also female Sex Addicts.
So, I guess my message is to just be aware. Keep the lines of communication open. You have every right to ask for and get answers from your spouse about the 12 step meetings that they attend. Some groups foster a sense of ‘secrecy’ about what happens in the meetings and I totally disagree with this philosophy. You have every right to tell your spouse that any secrecy is unacceptable if the relationship is to continue. You have every right to go to the meetings with your spouse and sit outside of the room and wait for him. This way you can see who is attending. If there is anything about the participants that make you uncomfortable you should discuss it with your spouse and counselor and find a solution that works for you.
Spouses and partners who are struggling through all the issues of recovery with a Sex Addict know that it certainly can present many challenges and it’s unfortunate that one of the basic tools of recovery can also be a source of pain and fear for them. My personal opinion is that the Sexual Addiction 12 step groups should be segregated for many reasons. If I were a female Sex Addict I think I would be very uncomfortable speaking my shame in front of male Sex Addicts. I think this is why most of these women never return to meetings with mixed sexes. But, in the case of both male and female Sex Addicts who continue to act out, these meetings, which include Sex Addicts of the opposite sex sharing their most intimate sexual issues, can only complicate their quest for recovery and sobriety.