I park on the street and walk around the back of the church, per the instructions on the basic 90’s style website. I reach for the back door handle, and it doesn’t budge. I pull again; still nothing. The doorbell glares at me, and I push it with a reluctant sigh. So this is how my first Sexaholics Anonymous meeting will start.
A man races to the door to let me in, and I have to make eye-contact, have to cue another human into why I’m here, and I follow him into a little room of fluorescent lights and eight men already sitting in a circle — a couple guys my age, a couple slightly older, and a couple even older still.
“Is this your first meeting?” the middle-aged man running the meeting asks me.
“Yeah,” I say, grabbing a seat, looking down.
“Oh, great. That changes the flow of this meeting, but that’s totally fine. We’re glad you’re here.”
For the next twenty minutes, a couple guys share their journeys through sex addiction. They’re all straight guys dealing with straight sex addiction, of course, and I’m still a virgin myself, so while there’s a stark disconnect over the depths and objects of our sexual addiction, I’m also discovering a definitive parallel I very rarely — if ever — walk among straight guys.
They ask if I’d like to share anything from my own story, assuring me there’s no pressure to do so since it’s only my first meeting.
“Sure, why not,” I say, thinking back on father-son church programs and living room devotions and how my innocent little Christian upbringing has led to this. “I’m Tom, and I’m an addict.”
~ ~ ~
Everyone has an introduction. A label. You’re this or you’re that, and if you’re not that then you’re this. We may not like it, but life always has categories. These identifiers help us understand each other, understand ourselves, understand our particular role amid a universe filled with infinite roles and labels and categories and mixed and matched identities.
I currently work for a nonprofit helping teens in recovery, and many of my fellow staff members are in recovery themselves. We recently attended an open recovery meeting in the community, and one of the staff members introduced himself to the room as “an addict.”
“It keeps me humble, man,” he told us afterward. “When I’m in those meetings, it’s not a time for me to be high and prideful about my last decade of sobriety. It’s a time to be real and recognize how deep this thing runs. I have a family now. I have the disease of addiction, and I need connection.”
I’ve taken his sincerity about substance addiction to heart as I consider my own journey through an altogether different — though eerily similar — sort of addiction. And now, recovery.
~ ~ ~
“I’m Tom, and I’m an addict,” I introduce myself.
“Hi, Tom,” the group responds in a sing-songy chorus.
I give the CliffsNotes version of my lustful story, leaving out the slight detail of my same-sex attraction — for now, at least.
“I used to think I was above coming to meetings like this,” I continue, and the guy beside me nods. “I’ve always thought I could figure this out on my own somehow. But masturbation led to pornography led to fantasy — and now, most recently, I’ve been web chatting for entire nights with other people. And . . . I don’t want this to go any further.”
I tell the group about my attending AA meetings for my new job and how inspired I’ve grown by this seemingly tedious process: meeting together in small rooms, reading from the same book each time, talking real life with each other, the good and the bad, and sticking with the same script and prayers and chip systems even when you don’t feel like it, some of it, any of it.
I’d grown so inspired by AA, in fact, that I’ve decided to trade an A for an S in my own personal journey through Sexaholics Anonymous.
“So yeah, that’s about it,” I finish. “Thanks for listening.”
“Thanks, Tom,” the chorus returns.
The meeting continues with a couple more stories and recitations, and I receive my 24-hour sobriety chip with a hug. Hopefully the first of many. We hold hands in a circle and say the Serenity Prayer to close the meeting:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I talk to a couple guys afterward, good guys who want to change, and then I go home.
~ ~ ~
I’m not entirely clear about my new recovery journey through Sexaholics Anonymous: how often I’ll attend, what sponsorship will look like, how much I’ll dive into the reading material and 12 Steps. I attended two meetings last week and encountered a couple of the same guys both times, and this was reassuring.
I love my spontaneous streaks, but I’m a creature of habit at heart. The same meetings on the same days and time with the same brothers in recovery will be beneficial to my life, I think.
My ultimate goal is to plug into a new church soon as I continue feeling out my new city and my new life, ideally complementing Sexaholics Anonymous with a solid church community. True community, especially brotherhood, take time, I know, and I think that’s where Sexaholics Anonymous fits perfectly into my life right now.
In Sexaholics Anonymous, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, whether you’re new to this or old to this, single or married, gay or straight or somewhere in between, your faith background or lack thereof — only that you have a desire to stop lusting.
This desire to stop has been there since my so-called innocent Christian childhood. And while I’ve taken some significant steps in the last two decades, upping the ante on vulnerability a couple years ago with my blog and book, this latest foray into Sexaholics Anonymous feels like a long overdue awakening from my vulnerability slumber.
I’ll keep y’all posted where this good little Christian boy’s addiction and recovery journey continues.
I need you all to keep me accountable.
I need to remind myself daily that I’m addict, a man with a heart deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), and I need to be reminded that I’m not alone.
Do you regularly attend Sexaholics Anonymous or a similar recovery program? Tell us about your journey through addiction, recovery, and accountability. Do you have a regular group of men with whom you stay accountable?