Responding to Your Fears and Questions About 12-Step Sexual Recovery Groups

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One of the biggest hurdles of recovery for many recovering sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts is attending their first 12-step “S” meeting. In fact, addicts who desperately need and would greatly benefit from these supportive communities often create extensive lists of reasons NOT to go. This blog is an attempt to debunk any reasons you may have for not taking advantage of the help that 12-step sexual recovery meetings offer.

I don’t have enough time. I’ve got a job, a family, and all sorts of things to do.

To that we say “Hogwash!” Did you act out in your addiction every day (or nearly every day) for at least an hour per day? If so, you’ve got plenty of time for 12-step meetings. Just replace your daily acting out with a meeting. Very likely, you’ll find that you have more than enough time for work, family, recreation, socialization, and active recovery.

I am concerned about being seen at these meetings and people gossiping about me and my problems.

While it is true that 12-step meetings are not bound to the same level of confidentiality as a therapy group, all participants of 12-step programs are committed to anonymity as a part of their own healing process. Moreover, many sex, porn, and love addiction recovery meetings are “closed,” meaning they are available only to self-identified sex, porn, and love addicts. This adds an extra layer of safety and security. And remember, people who see you in a sexual recovery meeting are there for the same basic reasons you’re there – because they are struggling with compulsive sexual and/or romantic behaviors. They don’t want to be talked about outside the meeting any more than you do, and they’re willing to protect your anonymity if you’re willing to protect theirs.

I don’t want to have to talk about myself or share my secrets. Will they make me do that?

Other than introducing yourself by your first name, participation in 12-step meetings (all types) is entirely voluntary. No one will make you talk, and no one will ask you to divulge anything you’re not comfortable sharing.

I have heard that a lot of sexual freaks and offenders go to these meetings. My problems haven’t hurt anybody other than myself, and I don’t think I’ll feel comfortable around a bunch of weirdos.

A vast range of people attend sex, porn, and love addiction 12-step meetings. Some of those individuals are court-ordered or trying to mitigate legal sanctions by attending. Most, however, have harmed only themselves and their loved ones. Believe it or not, there is something to be gained from hearing almost everyone’s story at the meetings. At the end of each meeting, you can decide who you would like to get to know better and whose example you want to follow. You may find that the people who are in legal hot water are working the strongest programs of recovery, and that they are the people you most want to emulate in your process of healing.

I hear there’s a lot of talk in these meetings about God. I don’t feel comfortable with that, and I definitely don’t want to trade my sexual problems for a cult.

Twelve-step groups are definitely not cults. They do, however, use phrases like “higher power” and “a power greater than ourselves.” The word “God” is used as well, nearly always followed by the words “as I/you/we understand God.” That qualifying language actually appears in the 12 steps, creating a lot of leeway for people who struggle with organized religion and the “God of their childhood.” Furthermore, the reference to “God” in the 12-steps is not in any way directed toward a specific religion or belief system. You are free to believe (and not believe) whatever you want to believe (and not believe). Many people decide that, for them, GOD is simply an acronym for Good Orderly Direction, which is provided by their therapist and their fellows in recovery. The idea here is to help you put your trust in something beyond your own best thinking.

I hear that a lot of people get picked up for sex in these meetings. That’s what I’m trying to avoid.

If your goal is finding sex, you know by now that you can find it just about anywhere – even in a 12-step meeting. That said, if you go to a 12-step sexual recovery meeting looking for the support of people who have long periods of sexual healing – people who can and will lend you a helping hand – that is what you will find. In general, 12-step sexual recovery meetings are safe, supportive places. One word of advice: It is always best to get together with other members, especially newer members, only at a coffee shop or in some other public venue. It is also best to avoid getting too involved with one member too quickly, as intense relationships are a hallmark of active sex, porn, and love addiction.

I don’t know which program to go to. I’m afraid I’ll go to the wrong one.

There are several 12-step sex, porn, and love addiction recovery programs. All of these programs offer both in-person and online meetings. (Some of the online meetings are listed on the Events calendar of SexandRelationshipHealing.com.) Each 12-step program has a slightly different focus, and each meeting within that program will be slightly different from other meetings in that program. We suggest that when you start going to meetings, you try as many different meetings in as many different programs as you can stand, finding out which groups feel the most comfortable and useful to you. After that, you can establish a set schedule for your meetings. As of this writing, 12-step groups dedicated to sex, porn, and love addiction include:

  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), 800-477-8191; 713-869-4902, saa-recovery.org/. This group is useful to both men and women, and all sexual orientations.
  • Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), 210-828-7900, slaafws.org/. This group tends to be the most welcoming venue for women, though plenty of men also find a home here.
  • Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), 866-424-8777, sa.org/. This is generally the least welcoming group for LGBTQ individuals. SA defines sexual sobriety for the addict. In SA, sober sex is limited to sex with your legally married spouse.
  • Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA), 800-977-HEAL, sca-recovery.org/. This tends to be the most welcoming group for LGBTQ individuals. These meetings are very similar to SAA meetings. Men and women, and all sexual orientations are welcome.
  • Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA), sexualrecovery.org/. This group is similar to SAA and SCA, open to both men and women, and all sexual orientations.
  • Porn Anonymous (PA), 732-659-0627, pornanonymous.org. This group is for people whose primary issue is porn addiction.
  • Pornography Addicts Anonymous (PAA), pornaddictsanonymous.org/. This is another group for people whose primary issue is porn addiction.
  • Sex and Porn Addicts Anonymous (SPAA), 424-209-7739, spaa-recovery.org/. This is a group for people who struggle with online and real-world sexual interactions as well as porn addiction.