Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to reconnect with an old friend. During the course of our conversation she confesses that she too is the spouse of an addict. Fortunately for her, her husband has been working an active recovery plan for a few years now. He has been using a program similar to AA’s twelve steps or SAA, and fortunately for him and her it has mostly been working. She mentioned that for the most part her husband, she believes, has remained sober. She did a acknowledge that he did have a few relapses, but they were far and few between.
The irony here is that my husband went to his first SAA meeting last night. Now, he is also involved in another program. But their regular meeting wasn’t available so he decided it was best to go to any meeting. My husband in his recovery plan has been very open about the processes he experiences. Now I am going to issue a disclaimer here: One, I wasn’t there. Two, I am repeating second hand what I was told by a person who is still early in his recovery. Three, this is only observations on one SAA meeting AND not a reflection on SAA as a whole. He was grateful for the meeting and even had an overall positive experience.
There were things he observed that appeared to treat sexual addiction like other addictions. First was that there was not much in the way of accountability. Sponsors, yes. But little talk of what had prevented sobriety today or that week. Many of the guys were not even “sober” for more than a day or two. In addition, if they were sober many seem to be in abstaining mode…not addressing the heart of their issues. An example was a guy spoke of another group that was co-ed and that there was a lot of hugging. This man bearing his heart remarked that he found this co-ed group triggering. Another spoke up and said with much laughter…”where is this group?” Much laughter ensued, but to his surprise no one said….perhaps that is not appropriate. It was almost too accepting. Each person at their own rate at their own time will move forward when or if ever they decide to do so. In the mean time keep coming, and eventually they might realize that this floating through will cause them to dig deeper. My question to my husband then was, where are the steps? A clear cut plan to move forward to gain freedom? His answer, “I don’t know. I thought perhaps they would have talked about that, but they really didn’t.”
I was crushed. I had high hopes for my spouse and this group. They had an opportunity to help a man seeking freedom in their midst and were so wrapped in their own boys hour to care or notice.
It feels to me that at least this group missed the big difference between other addictions and sex addiction. And that is it really isn’t an addiction. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem; an attachment disorder. At some point in their early years these men failed to learn how to attach healthily. Now there are a myriad of reasons for that, and that is a subject for another day. But they never grow emotionally as a result. They chose to attach to themselves as a way of coping.
The real key for getting clean and staying clean is relationships. Healthy, positive, affirming relationships. Isn’t that what the AA/SAA model is all about? Help me understand. Can’t one be affirming and still hold people accountable? We do it with children all the time. And let’s be real, all addicts are infants. I don’t say this to be demeaning. I say it because their relational capabilities is on par with an infant/toddler. It is demand, after demand, center of attention, me focused, petulance, and downright selfishness. Was that harsh? Sorry, but the truth hurts.
I guess my question is, can this model work if you have toddlers leading infants? Who holds them accountable? And is there a group leader that is at least past his pre-pubescent stage emotionally facilitating the group?
I think, as a wife who’s own emotional security actually hinges on these groups…I have a right to know and understand the process. Somebody please give me a clue here.