As I gained control of my out-of-control behavior, as I discovered an ability to accept my desires and at the same time not act on them, I found myself increasingly in conflict with the philosophy of the 12-step programs, and in particular, of the most restrictive of them (which were, ironically enough, the ones I actually found most helpful to me in the early stages of my “recovery”).
Other things began to bother me: as I attended meeting after meeting, all over my city and the country (I traveled a lot for work), I noticed that there were VERY few people participating in the programs with long-standing “sobriety.” And this was more true at the more permissive fellowships than at the more restrictive ones. Was this because there were few “sex addicts” who had achieved long-term sobriety? Or was it because those who had no longer found the program useful? Obviously, there was no way to know.
And the focus on “sobriety” – a sort of binary, either you are or you aren’t approach to a problem, didn’t appeal to me. The first step, which required that I admit I was powerless, that my life was unmanageable, seemed no longer applicable to me even after I had reached a point where I was no longer radically out of control, no longer felt either powerless or that m y life was unmanageable, but at which I still did act out sexually occasionally. That was actually a much more normal configuration of life – and more like other areas of my life over which I sometimes struggle (like bagels, and chocolate, and web-surfing) than my previous (and utter) powerlessness. And my incidents of such succumbing to temptation were diminishing in both frequency and seriousness.
[At this point, I should note that anyone participating in a twelve-step program would call “bullshit” on me here, would say, “N, that’s your inner addict talking, rationalizing and justifying your way into a self-deceived tolerance of continued addiction.” I know that, and I accept and honor that interruption. I won’t characterize it or respond to it. Except to say that today, a few years into my “recovery,” at a point when I’m not “acting out,” but when I am occasionally – or more often – having a lot of sex with a lot of people – and doing so honestly, joyfully, and without pain to me or others, I’m happy, not feeling powerless, not feeling my life is unmanageable.]
Meetings had been great for me. The twelve-step program had, quite literally, saved me from a miserable existence. But I felt myself outgrowing the program. And what sucks is, the program has no way to admit the possibility of such a thing’s happening. “Once an addict, always an addict….” I have no view about the twelve-step theology/ideology in the abstract, or as it pertains to others. But as for me, it stopped working. I found myself growing resentful of the program, actually being more likely to act out sexually after going to a meeting than when missing meetings.
And so, over time, I ended my participation. My last meeting was almost a year ago, and I attended specifically to give a brother in the program a book I had bought for him.