This Message to Newcomers It is not conference approved literature.
It was written by Sam L, with input from his friends in SLAA and is the author’s opinion only.
In our SLAA program newcomers are, and need to always be, our first priority. We recognize how hard it is to first come in the rooms. Our program, while simple, is anything but easy. In an effort to give you some clarity on the program we have designed materials which may be helpful to you.
We wish you great success as you follow this new path towards a truly meaningful life.
Types of Sex and Love Addicts
We start with a look at who you are in the context of our Big Book. From Step 2 “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The word “ourselves” is troubling in this step. Who are you, and who am I, as sex and love addicts? Our big book offers a dangerously narrow understanding of sex and love addiction. “Our physical appearance, our mannerisms, the way we went about our careers or other activities, many of the traits we thought of as our identifying trademarks, as who we were, had been designed to serve our sex and love addiction.” And later in the same paragraph “We had felt so self-assured, surveying a crowded room, advertising or broadcasting our availability.”
This is certainly one type of sex and love addict. Is that the only one? I think not. There are at least 8 other types of sex and love addicts, easily defined and identified. If these other types are not included, it is quite possible that you will not see yourself as fitting in. We assure you that you may be, and in fact, probably are. Other types of sex and love addicts are: Predator, porn addict, anorexic, love addict, love avoidant, transactional addict, voyeur and exhibitionist and fantasy addict. The only type identified in our big book we have labeled as “debonaire sex addict.”
The Predator seeks out vulnerabilities in others and exploits these to form sexual relationships.
The Porn Addict seeks ever increasing amounts and more powerful forms of pornography whether through print, video, rooms, chat. This is frequently a secret and solitary activity.
The Anorexic separates from all forms of sexual activity, sometimes believing that this absence of connection represents the “cure” of sex and love addiction.
The Love Addict believes that “true” connection with the latest in a string of lovers will cure the loneliness which permeates their existence.
The Love Avoidant feels oppressed when “smothering” love is part of the connection with their latest lover.
The Transactional sex and love addict uses sex stores, massages parlors and escorts to satisfy sexual urges and believes that the exchange of bodily fluids for money is somehow “cleaner” than other forms of sexual addiction.
The Voyeur and Exhibitionist use these solitary activities to control anxieties which might otherwise be expressed in more “dangerous” ways.
The Fantasy addict lives in and moves around in that netherworld of past and future, sometimes living with “erotic recall” and sometimes in the hope that the next encounter will be the “right” one.
Do any of these brief descriptions sound familiar? Or maybe, is it some combination of the above?
If any do, SLAA may be a place where you can start or continue a recovery journey. We welcome you and hope that you read on.
A New Basis of Recovery: Progress not Perfection
The Signs of Recovery of SLAA
It is critically important to know that the path of recovery is long but that the process is worth all of our efforts. One benchmark we use is the Signs of Recovery. We also use The Promises of SLAA and the Blessings as other ways to assess our progress. Unfortunately, you may find that the Signs of Recovery, as currently shown, are so far away as to seem impossible. For most of us, these Signs begin to manifest several years into recovery. We have created a modified version, using the same format, for signs which will appear earlier in your recovery. In all likelihood, if you are dutiful in your work, you will begin to see some of these signs by the end of your first year. The original version is shown first, followed by the modified version that we hope is more relatable for a newcomer.
The signs of recovery of SLAA (ORIGINAL VERSION)
- We seek to develop a daily relationship with a Higher Power, know that we are not alone in our efforts to heal ourselves from our addiction.
- We are willing to be vulnerable because the capacity to trust has been restored to us by our faith in a Higher Power.
- We surrender, one day at a time, our whole life strategy of, and our obsession with, the pursuit of romantic and sexual intrigue and emotional dependency.
- We learn to avoid situations that may put us at risk physically, morally, psychologically or spiritually.
- We learn to accept and love ourselves, to take responsibility for our own lives and to take care of our own needs before involving ourselves with others.
- We become willing to ask for help, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and learning to trust and accept others.
- We allow ourselves to work through the pain of our own low self-esteem and our fears of abandonment and responsibility. We learn to feel comfortable in solitude.
- We begin to accept our imperfections and mistakes as part of being human, healing our shame and perfectionism while working on our character defects.
- We begin to substitute honesty for self-destructive ways of expressing emotions and feelings.
- We become honest in expressing who we are, developing true intimacy in our relationships with ourselves and others.
- We learn to value sex as a by-produce of sharing, commitment, trust and cooperation in a partnership.
- We are restored to sanity, on a daily basis, by participating in the process of recovery.
The Early Signs of Recovery for Newcomers
- I dutifully work the steps.
- I develop vulnerability within my groups by sharing my story.
- I create powerful bottom- line behaviors.
- I have slips, learn some of the recurring patterns, and clearly see their consequences.
- I find a sponsor and create powerful connections (with people I meet in meetings?).
- I become a truly active listener, first within our groups and later with friends and family.
- I begin to identify and connect with my wounded inner child.
- I begin to understand the powerful feeling of shame, see some of my major stressors and start the process of surrender.
- I begin to have feelings, can identify them, and start my understanding that feelings are not necessarily facts.
- I find and use appropriate tools in my path of recovery.
- I begin to understand and, more importantly, feel the difference between intimacy and sex.
- When I engage magical thinking, I rapidly return to sanity.
Withdrawal is the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual upheaval which accompanies the early release of our addictive patterns. Whether our patterns involve sex, romance, or relationships, not satisfying these patterns shocks our system. Like drugs or alcohol, sex and love addiction becomes all-consuming, pushing us into greater and greater risk to our physical health, our emotional well-being, indeed our very life itself.
Withdrawal is uncomfortable. Our bodies go through unexpected physical changes; our emotions hit highs and lows we never imagined. We feel intensely the void which we had previously filled with our addiction.
No longer acting out on our bottom-line behaviors exposes the vulnerability we had desperately been avoiding. Withdrawal is often recognized through its symptoms:
- Craving to act out
- Inexplicable aches and pains
- A switch to a new addiction
- Changes in eating and sleep patterns
- Powerful self- doubt
- Desperation and fear
- Obsessive thinking
- Sadness, depression, or despair
- Emotional highs and lows
- Difficulty concentrating
If you are experiencing one or many of these symptoms, you may well be in withdrawal.
In withdrawal, you will likely go through five stages, which are generally associated with grief. This makes sense because withdrawal is to experience the changes in your relationship with your addict—from its being your master to being under some level of your control. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately acceptance (or surrender).
Denial is often around whether you really are an addict. “I am not an addict. I just love sex.” Or, “I am just a really friendly person.”
Anger sounds like, “Why me? Others find willing partners all the time. Why can’t I do the same?”
Bargaining is, “If I stop seeing escorts, can’t I at least masturbate?”
Depression is being unable to focus or perhaps even being unable to get out of bed.
And finally, acceptance (or surrender) is the beginning of the end of withdrawal. You accept that addiction has been the go-to for stress but that there are new and healthy ways to live. You begin to not only work the steps with vigor but also begin to find ways to integrate the steps into every aspect of your life.
How long does withdrawal last?
Unfortunately, the answer is unclear. If you have entered the program but find that you have not yet succeeded in curbing your acting out, withdrawal can last a very long time. It is only when you have entered a period of sustained honoring of your bottom lines that your brain has the chance to reset and begin to heal. You can expect to have many of the symptoms noted above. The power of these symptoms lessens as you move from withdrawal to early recovery.
If I am no longer acting out, what am I to do?
It is essential to substitute healthy behaviors for addictive ones. Sometimes, we just breathe. It may be all that we can do, for the moment. Reciting the Serenity Prayer helps too, especially in those critical times when we are tempted by our addiction. “Would it really be so bad if I called x?” Better by far is to call our sponsor or a healthy member. Reflecting on the Twelve Steps can help us come back to the solution, instead of being stuck in the problem.
Laser Beam focus on the three S’s
As you approach the work of recovery, you will no doubt be confused and often overwhelmed. There is so much to do and the sense is that so much time has already been wasted. Where do I start? How do I understand all that is said in meetings? How do I integrate individual’s ideas, therapist’s ideas, the ideas I get from readings and my own thoughts?
Our suggestion is that you focus all of your attention on the 3 S’s, described below. All of the ideas and feelings which you hear expressed in the meetings, try to bring to bear on how this helps you work through these 3 S’s. This will help you organize your thoughts and feelings and keep you from being overwhelmed.
The 3 S’s are: shame, stressors and surrender. What do these mean? Shame is the overwhelming feeling that, not only have you done wrong (which is guilt) but that at your very core, you are wrong. You are wrong as a human being and, moreover, if what you are and have done ever comes out, you will be completely abandoned. No one has ever done what you have done! How wrong you are. We all have done what you have done. Through time and effort, we have lowered our shame so that it no longer overwhelms us and no longer leads back into our addiction. After all, if we are truly as awful as we think, why not return to those shameful activities?
Stressors are those influences, both from outside and from within, which plague us. Feelings of abandonment, of worthlessness and of overwhelm are all stressors. Fears and resentments are also stressors. As we recognize these stressors and use the tools of the program to reduce their power over us, the stressors diminish their power over us.
The last of the 3 S’s is surrender. We at some point once in the program realize that relying only on ourselves or on another person (often our lover or spouse) keeps us engulfed in our addiction. It is only by accepting that there is a greater power than us allows us to truly give up the belief that we are more powerful than our addiction. It is this giving up which allows us to loosen the hold that our addiction has over us.
So, if these are truly the key areas which I need to work on, how do I approach this process? The key is to bring to bear the tools which are granted us as we work our way into the program of recovery. What are these tools? Which works for which of the 3 S’s? Please read on.
There are a great many tools which are helpful in recovery. Some are really powerful general-purpose tools. These include coming to meetings. These include finding and working with a sponsor. These include using prayer and meditation. These include reading and rereading our pamphlets, our Big Book, and other literature. These involve finding a therapist and really telling the truth to the therapist. These involve sharing honestly in meetings.
There are also tools which are especially useful for working with the 3 S’s.
So, what are tools specially for shame?
Using affirmations is especially useful to lessen shame. Spend some time now learning about affirmations. There is a wealth of materials on their use on the Internet. Some information is also available on the SLAA Monterey website.
A brief story in this regard. I spent 5 weeks at the Meadows, a top-notch treatment center. While I was there, 4 soldiers who were struggling with their addictions were also there. They created a plan for themselves so that every time they went through a doorway, they shouted out, in unison, 5 affirmations. They did this every time. It turns out that the more often we use affirmations, the more this helps our brain to rewire. Over time, the affirmations become more and more true. The shame diminishes.
Another tool which helps lessen shame is to tell our story. In our groups, we share, usually for a few minutes only. This we call “getting current”. While this helps, even more helpful is the chance to share with the group our story. When you get a chance to do this, jump at the opportunity. Please do not spend a great deal of time rehearsing your story, to make it perfect. Rather use this as a wondrous opportunity to let others know who you really are! This is incredibly healing in lessening shame. I am not alone. I am not terminally unique. People are not rushing out of the room to escape my presence. On the contrary, people become closer as they get to know the real me.
Yet another tool is to find and work with a sponsor. If you and your sponsor have chosen wisely, this person will soon become a person with whom you can truly and honestly share. This allows you to recount your personal history and to begin to create the history of you for which you can be truly and justifiably proud.
Now, what are tools which can be especially useful in reducing stressors?
First and foremost, it is critical to begin to recognize that you have stressors. Everyone does. I used to believe that I had no stressors and that I was always cool, calm and collected and in control. How insane was I? Learn to recognize (in your head) and feel (in your body) when you are stressed. Know that you will almost instantly move to the “fight, flight, or fright” which is our immediate response.
Once this recognition becomes easier, you can use the technique of curiosity. This will allow you to become aware of what is going on within you. Rather than fighting against the stressor, or denying that it even exists, you can simply look at it. Say to yourself: “How interesting”. “Where is that coming from?” “Why am I feeling this way. Using a curious mind helps diminish its power over you.
Reactivity will diminish and in its place with be increased self-awareness. This allows you to become more thoughtful and less reactive in your responses.
Finally, what are some tools for surrender?
A fundamental tool of surrender is the complete acknowledgment of the profound truth of step 1. “We admitted we were powerless over sex and love addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Until you can truly feel, in both your head and your heart, that this is true, you can never completely surrender.
Think back and recount for yourself times when you did not want to act out and yet acted out, again and again. Whether this was with pornography, with an escort, or with yourself, remember all those times when you decided that you would no longer do a behavior and yet did it anyway. How many examples of this powerless do you have to endure before you acknowledge the fundamental truth that you were indeed powerless.
With your meetings, with the materials which are readily available, with therapists, with sponsors, with trusted friends, you will embrace the wisdom of step 1. Without this, you will be stuck. With this, you are well on the path of sobriety and a richer and more meaningful and joyous life.
A tricky aspect of surrender is that as hard as it is to surrender, it is far too easy to take back control when life is looking better. It might be as simple as the gentle smile of a loved one or the attaboy from a work colleague for you to say, “okay, higher power, thanks for the help but I have this now.” Resist strongly this temptation. You will need to truly embrace surrender. Try not to take it back when life looks better and give it away when times turn more difficult.
This covers a great deal of material. You may find it most helpful to review this over time with your sponsor. Read widely both within the SLAA literature and more broadly on topics pertaining to recovery. You can move from addiction to recovery. The journey is worth every effort you make. And, know that we will be with you every step of the way.
This Message to Newcomers It is not conference approved literature.
It was written by Sam L, with input from his friends in SLAA and is the author’s opinion only.