I woke up at 6:45 AM today, a Saturday morning, to drive an hour away to my first Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting. I knew there would be a meeting in my town tomorrow, but I needed a meeting today. It has been a rough week.
It was…. well, nice is not the right word… but in listening to everyone sharing their own struggles, I felt less alone… and that made me feel less desperate and hopeless.
I learned a bit more about 12 step meetings today, and about how differently people approach the process. Some jump right in and get a sponsor and start going through the steps; they might go over each of the steps over and over again. Others may come to meeting every week but spend a year or more in the first three steps before getting a sponsor. Still others attend meetings sporadically and take years before deciding to commit to even trying to work the steps.
I tend to pretty Type A, and this extends to my approach to recovery.
While this was my first meeting, I came with a certain degree of insight. I’ve read dozens of self-help books and spent years talking to therapists about my attachment issues. I just finally realized that I seem to be unable to change my destructive relationship patterns. So there I was, scoping the scene for a potential sponsor, thinking, “Let’s get this show on the road! I’ve got shit to work on and I’m not getting any younger!”
Today is the first day of the rest of my life…and I don’t want to go back… but I know I’m not yet ready to go forward.
Despite a few moments of terror and panic over the last few days, during which time I have tried but have not even managed to maintain sexual sobriety, I am still looking forward to the idea of working toward sobriety. I mean, the concept is fantastic: SLAA promises us that sexual sobriety will allow us to “regain control of our lives.” “We will no longer be plagued by an unceasing sense of longing.” The one I most hope for: “Love will be a committed, thoughtful decision rather than a feeling by which we are overwhelmed.” Who wouldn’t want those things?
But I’m also a junkie and I wondered how long it would be before I would be able to date responsibly. “Is that terrible?” I asked my new friend, a woman I met at the meeting. “Am I like the alcoholic in denial at AA, asking how long I have to wait to be able to drink responsibly?”
I mean, let’s be honest. I want to recover from sex and love addiction so that I can maintain a healthy relationship… so that I won’t have to die alone.
She laughed and acknowledged that it is different than AA. People can live without alcohol, but human beings should not avoid love or interpersonal relationships indefinitely. That being said, when doing the work of recovery from addiction, the general rule is that people should avoid dating for one year.
Wait…WHAT? A YEAR?!
A year…? Like 12 months? A year without a relationship? A year without dating at all? A year without SEX?
I don’t know whether I am right to think that sounds insane or if that’s my addiction talking. I have never been without sex for more than maybe ten weeks since I was 17. I guess that’s part of why I am going to these meetings, after all. But… a year!
This one bitchy part of my brain is yelling about how I’ll be almost 37 years old in a year! I’m getting old faster than I can do anything about it! How can I sacrifice 12 precious months in what might be my last chance at finding love before I’m not marketable?
I know that’s messed up. In multiple ways.
I know I’m not a product to market to men, I know I don’t want a man who has to be ‘sold’ on me, and I know that I don’t want to look at ‘finding love’ as some race against time. I also object to the idea that I would be less lovable after some ‘expiration date.’ And yet… I have been hurriedly selling myself and hoping no one notices the bruises on the merchandise.
Well, on the bright side, maybe by then I will “no longer be plagued by an unceasing sense of longing.”
Alrighty… But, boy, I have a feeling this is gonna be a bumpy ride!