This past week I have started joining 12 Step telephone meetings for Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. This is a first for me and I've been to three meetings so far, two of which focused on what SLAA calls sexual, emotional and social anorexia. I identify most strongly with social anorexia and to some extent to emotional anorexia. I have practiced social anorexia since high school or, in other words, for around forty years. I've met and known and been intimate with only a few people. Thanks to the SLAA group I'm starting to see that my self-imposed isolation is really an addiction, too. I know now that I can't stop this behavior without the help of the Higher Power. People cannot help me, nor I them, if I don't reach out to them. My isolation from people is a form of imprisonment. I'm so used to it that I lose sight of this.
Returning to the Al-Anon group has given me the confidence to begin reaching out to the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous group through the telephone meetings. I feel I belong in the Al-Anon group, but I am starting to realize that I belong, in my present circumstances, even more to the SLAA group, especially to the anorexic group within the group. My response to the two meeting I went to for anorexia was mixed. I feel a real gratitude for the meetings and the people who chair them, the people who show up and for the connection between members in the meeting after the meeting. I also feel sadness that there are so many people isolating themselves the way I have done. And I feel fear of those fewer members who are so emotionally shut down as to be cold to themselves and others despite reaching out to the group.
Many anorexics in this group practice self-hatred. They are caught in a double bind of judging others and themselves equally harshly. I used to be more like that, but I've found, after surviving domestic violence and serious mental illness, that I am generally kinder to myself and others than I have ever been. And yet still a sense of shame lingers within me paving the way for me to continue practicing social withdrawal. Perhaps I've known how pernicious shame is since after I graduated from college the first time in the mid 1980s. So many people have had people in their lives that actively have shamed them to the point where they internalized it and began shaming themselves daily. That's how it started for them, often in childhood and adolescence. But that is not my story. Why I chose to take on the burden of shame when no one had seriously shamed me in my childhood and adolescence, I do not know at this point, but that's what I did. It led me right into a love addicted relationship with a young abusive alcoholic.
I do not know what it is to have a deep, healthy friendship or love relationship. In my sick state, I don't know what true health looks and feels like, except through the glimpses that my Higher Power shows me when I reach out to others. Now, I'm reaching for greater awareness and understanding and as it comes to me gradually I am beginning to awaken sadder, darker feelings, the feelings that I have been pushing down deep, trying to ignore. I don't want to, but I know I have to embrace feeling my feelings if I am to have the chance to break out of this prison I have constructed.
Of course, the story doesn't stop there. If I get too dark while coming out of my denial, I fall back into living without balance and that is not a good place to stay. I have to search for the good inside me and outside me. I am close to trying to approach my 4th Step "made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves". Many of the inventory guides say to pick out 12 character defects or shortcomings first and then pick out 24 character assets. I did make a list of my shortcomings, but now it is time to make a list of my strengths and never lose sight of all the good that is in me. I need to love and respect myself as I am. Self love is not only precious, it is absolutely necessary in order to have a rich and rewarding life with oneself and with others.