I am in a close friendship with a sex and love addict. He is an incest survivor who never healed from the severity of the abuse he endured. He was taught to equate sex with “love” and he was taught that “love” also meant pain, that true love had something to do with abuse of self and others. His experience taught him to embrace sex/romance/relationship addiction. He’s been living with this addiction for 35 years. I’ve been working with him for over a year, regularly encouraging him to seek help outside his circle of codependently addicted “friends”. These also very sick “friends” are his whole world when he’s not working and when he is working. Unfortunately society has rewarded him financially for being an addict. He is a hardworking perfectionist and the work he does is of good quality, but it comes at a great sacrifice. Essentially he does not love himself and is mistrustful of the idea that a benevolent unconditionally loving Higher Power exists.
It is really quite a miracle that he reached out to me at all. I don’t even know if there is anybody but me that is trying to help him see and go treat his illnesses. What it means to me is that a part of him really wants to heal and be a good man because he listens to me. I talk to him about my love addicted past and how much it hurt me, but that when I turned toward help, particularly from a 12 Step program, I began to become aware of how much I had been hurting myself, essentially hating myself and putting myself in a position where I would be beaten down and degraded. Then I talk about how I began to deepen my faith that there existed a benevolent Higher Power that was aware of every second I had ever lived and cared about me all through my trials which were my toughest lessons. From there I talk about my gradual process of learning to love and accept myself with all my strengths and weaknesses.
For the last two months I’ve been talking to him about the 12 Steps as I go through them while trying to commit myself to going to a 12 Step group. He’s still listening. He’s not shutting me out or acting defensively. Obviously, he doesn’t share all the details of his life with me, but the part of himself he does share has a great deal of health in it already. He is kind, considerate, tries to be open, reflects on what I say and appears to be continuing to try to be honest, particularly with himself. I can see the seeds of self-love starting to grow in him. I’ve asked him to “act as if” there exists a loving God and he hasn’t said no to that either. I’ve sent him support books which include a couple of daily readers, one for people recovering from sex addiction and one for men recovering from any addiction. I encourage him to read at the very least one of the readers each day and reflect on it. I learned so much and got a lot of comfort from reading my Al-Anon daily readers when I was very ill and lost.
I understand, sympathize and have great compassion for the many sex and love addicts in this world. Here in the US particularly romance addiction is interwoven into the entertainment industry and massive numbers of people flock to the most popular products (books, films, music) and consume them often repeatedly. The twisted message is that addiction is cool and perfectly “normal” and healthy. Any reference to the concept of a benevolent Higher Power that is trying to help us help ourselves to heal this sick world are conspicuously absent. More often there is a one finger salute to the individual artist’s idea of “God” yet even that happens infrequently. After all, God is not the point; the point is to preserve the romantic delusion that unhealthy relationships with ourselves and others is actually profound, passionate, interesting and good. The point is to continue the addictive cycle and make a lot of money doing it.
How do you heal from such a soul destroying illness when examples of people engaging in the addiction are all around you. How do you get the strength to detach with love from others who are caught inside the illness that you are trying to heal within your spirit? The answer is basic and practical: read support literature and meditate on it, pray to a healing God, write your feeling and thoughts and lessons learned in a journal, go to a 12 Step meeting, find an appropriate therapist, get a sponsor or several sponsors to go through the Steps with, practice self honesty always, cultivate love and compassion for yourself and others, include as much humor into the process as is possible or appropriate, believe that you are on a spiritual path, ask God to remove your compulsions, stay creative, open and expressive. It’s a matter of unlearning false lessons from childhood and adolescence, false lessons given by our culture and learning the truest lesson there is, that of cultivating from now on love and compassion for yourself and all beings.
The prime directive for everyone of us is to take care of ourselves in our spirits by connecting to something greater than ourselves, whatever that might be as long as it is something healthy and healing. Our responsibility is to keeping ourselves healthy, that’s the only real and lasting way to deeply help other suffering people. I can’t heal you. You can’t heal me. But we can heal ourselves through the grace of the Higher Power. And if we choose to take this path, there will be many fellow travelers to be supported by and to support. This is the way to heal the world, person by person.
A Recovery Blog
This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.