I’ve been on the road to recovery from addiction for over 20 years. My personal journey began with recognizing my issues with alcohol and substances. Though I never entered an in-patient rehabilitation program, I went to AA meetings and NA meetings and created a solid, sober, alcohol- and substance-free life.
I felt healthy and whole, for the most part, but at a certain point I realized I was having issues with relationships: I couldn’t stay in one. I would quickly get bored and begin looking for something new and exciting. I was always thinking about what was next. While in committed dating situations, I would often compulsively cruise dating websites “just to see what was out there.”
My issues in one particular relationship hit me extremely hard, and I found myself at what felt like relationship rock-bottom. It felt surprisingly familiar, much like the bottom I hit before I went to my first AA meeting.
Love Addiction And Co-Addiction As A Male
At this point, a good friend/recovery partner/mentor-type from AA suggested that I consider the possibility that I might have a love addiction. Love addiction? I’d heard of love addiction and sex addiction, but was under the impression that for the most part, women tended to be love addicts and men tended to be sex addicts.
I also knew about the phenomenon of co-addiction: if a person has one addiction, there’s a decent chance there might be another addiction at play as well. After all, I had experience with both alcohol and substance addictions, so I decided to explore the idea that I might also have some sort of love or sex addiction.
As a male, I thought it more likely that it might be a sexual addiction; maybe my inability to stay in a relationship had more to do with looking for new sexual experiences than it had to do with seeking new love experiences. To find out, I decided to research recovery groups for love and sex addiction and go to a meeting or two to see where I fit in.
Finding The Right Recovery Group For Love Addiction
I quickly realized that there were many 12-step recovery groups for love and sex addiction. I had choices to make: should I go to Sex Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Recovery Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or Sexual Compulsives Anonymous? Because of my location and schedule, my choices were quickly narrowed down to Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA).
For my first meeting, I decided on SRA. Though I had been to countless AA meetings, I was a little bit nervous because sex addiction carries a great deal of baggage and negative social stigma. What kind of people am I going to meet? Exactly what am I getting myself into?
Once I got into the meeting, however, my fears were put to rest: I was in a room with a cross-section of society. Doctors, lawyers, mechanics, accountants, college students—it was as if someone had deliberately chosen a random sample of Americans and dropped them into that room. I was comforted by the process: introductions, self-identification, readings from The Big Book and sharing.
Upon leaving, I felt like I was going in the right direction but wasn’t sure I’d found the fellowship for me because most of the people in that meeting had strictly sexual addictions that dwarfed my propensity for cruising dating websites.
My next meeting was Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), and it took only about 15 minutes for me to realize that I’d found my group. Not only did both the time and location of the meeting fit my life, but the content and approach of the program was much more suited to my particular issues: before the end of the meeting, I realized that my issues around love and sex were much more complex than I’d ever imagined.
I knew I was in the right meeting because as I listened to a member of the fellowship read the “Signs of Sex and Love Addiction,” I kept thinking over and over, “Yes, that describes me. And hey—that describes me, too. Wait a minute—so does that!” In contrast to the SRA meeting I’d attended the night before, the SLAA meeting worked for me because I more readily identified with the comprehensive, inclusive approach it advocated.
Successfully Overcoming Lifelong Addictive Tendencies
I soon realized, as have many who have already walked this path, that for me, sex is rarely about just sex, love is rarely about just love and it’s no simple thing to separate either from intimacy. Furthermore, I realized that all of my addictions—alcohol, substances, love, sex—had a common origin.
Through my earlier experiences with AA and NA, I learned how to keep my underlying issues at bay and maintain a sober, healthy lifestyle. However, as I got older those source issues worked their way to the surface and showed up in my issues with love and sex.
Now, it’s as if a veil has been lifted and the relationship issues that for years had been nagging at the back of my psyche were revealed for what they are: addictive tendencies that can be overcome with time, diligence, humility, honest self-reflection and the help of recovery partners, mentors and a solid fellowship.