“When we began recovery from sex addiction, most of us had no idea what healthy sexuality might be, much less how to develop it. “The truth is that most of us didn’t really experience sex when we were acting out. In our most intense experiences, we tended to be disconnected, lost in a bubble of repetition, fantasy, and obsession. Our disease kept us from being fully present when we were sexual” (Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 71).
“Since ‘SAA does not endorse any specific definition of healthy sexuality’ (Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 71), each of us was free to develop our own understanding. Often, we found that much of the difference between unhealthy and healthy sexuality depended on our attitude, intention, and spirit. As we learned from each other, our understanding of sexuality changed over time. Here we offer some experience and insights to others on this journey.
“As sex addicts, we were powerless over our addictive sexual behavior and fantasies,
and this resulted in an unmanageable life. “We experienced sex as compulsive” (Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 70). Rather than meeting our natural needs, we were trying to use sex to control our feelings, manipulate others, or to escape reality. We isolated. We hid and/or lied about our behaviors. We may have wanted sex at our convenience and on our terms.
“Our first step toward healthy sexuality was admitting that our sexual behavior was out of control and that we couldn’t stop by ourselves. With the help of a Higher Power, our sponsor, and others in the program, we established healthier boundaries for our thoughts and actions. We may have started by avoiding places and situations where we used to “act out.” Some of us cleared our minds through a period of celibacy where we avoided all forms of sexual interaction with others and ourselves, possibly avoiding all physical contact with others. Most of us worked with our sponsor to determine the nature and length of any celibacy period.
“In the safety of SAA meetings, we found we could be honest and transparent. One member said, “If what I felt most ashamed of is open for discussion, what is there to hide?” (Voices of Recovery, page 344). This honesty was the basis for working the Twelve Steps, by which we gained a spiritual awakening. We learned new ways of living, which included regularly applying principles of recovery such as patience, openness, vulnerability, and respect. As we applied these principles to our sexuality, we changed how we expressed it.
“The growth and healing we experienced empowered us to say “no” to unhealthy behaviors. For example, some of us supported our sobriety by saying a gentle word to someone about their use of language we found offensive, or the way they seemed to contribute to a hostile environment. In dealing with those situations, we sometimes needed to seek help from people in authority. Our willingness to challenge unhealthy behaviors created and enhanced our ability to say “yes” to healthier ones. Some of the questions we asked ourselves to determine if we were moving closer to a healthier sexuality were:
“(a) Am I present? Is my mind in the moment?
“(b) Do I have integrity? Can I be trusted?
“(c) Am I flexible? Am I willing to explore new aspects of my sexuality? Am I enhancing my life by embracing my creativity?
“(d) Am I emotionally vulnerable?
“(e) If I have a partner, is there a balance of control and mutual respect? Am I open to my partner’s feelings?
“(f) Am I nurturing? Am I meeting my needs and my partner’s?
“If the answer to these questions was yes, we knew we were on our way.
“We discovered and maintained healthy boundaries with the help of our Higher Power and other recovering addicts. Some behaviors we initially found questionable were eventually seen as healthy, while others were recognized as part of our addiction. Many of us found that things shifted over time. We were free to consider suggestions from fellow members, and decide what seemed right for us.
“Many of us expressed our healthy sexuality in our relationships. Our goal was a deep and vibrant emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual connection with ourselves and with our partner. Most of us have sought to practice spiritual principles in our relationships. “The Steps are an expression of spiritual principles that can be practiced ‘in all aspects of life. Honesty, willingness, courage, humility, forgiveness, responsibility, gratitude, and faith are just some of the names we give to the spiritual principles that gradually come to guide us in our lives’
(Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 60-61).Version 28, LitCom approved, 4-11-2021
● For example, applying the principle of honesty included making sure our partners are capable of giving us informed consent, sharing our genuine thoughts and feelings with our partner, waiting on physical intimacy until we are sure of our partner’s and our motives, and exploring whether we have shared values.
● Applying the principle of openness sometimes involved listening respectfully to our partner and being open to seeing the world from their perspective.
● For some of us, applying the principle of willingness meant committing to a future together through troubles and difficult choices. We showed a willingness to communicate respectfully, even in conflicts. We also learned to be willing to let go when our desire was not shared.
“Those of us who are single benefitted from cultivating a genuine connection with ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically. By looking to our Higher Power, our sponsor, and our group to guide us, we became comfortable with our own sexuality. We celebrated our sexuality as an expression of our humanity.
“Through recovery, we learned to enjoy many types of intimate relationships, not just physical ones. We experienced the following forms of intimacy:
● Intellectual — we talked about ideas that interest both ourselves and others.
● Emotional — we took risks and vulnerably shared our feelings.
● Spiritual — we connected with our Higher Power and others in sharing values,
spiritual practices, and dreams for the future.
● Physical — we shared our bodies in a very loving and beautiful way. Many of us learned that, as part of recovery, discovering our own healthy sexuality was a spiritual journey, not a destination. Most of us found a need to be open to change and to trust our sponsor, our recovery community, and our Higher Power. By practicing spiritual principles, we found that healthier sexuality was possible for us–and we believe it is possible for all who seek it.