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Sex... Situationships... Relationships... and Things Learned | One Addicts Experience

Today, talking with someone who was kicking around going into *complete* abstinence from sex for a while, he asked what I thought about it. I told them I don't have thoughts about it, but I do have experiences, and if they wanted to hear that I'd share them. They did, so this is what I shared with them:

I went through a period in my life wherein I was doing a lot of "Sneaky link," AKA "Sport fn," in the early years of my recovery. The weird thing was it was like being in the cycle of using, especially since I played in a band. I'd do it and regret it, do it and regret it, do it and regret it since I had no true or honest intention of keeping the connection with them going. On a couple of occasions I literally sat there confused saying, 'I'm not getting high... "why does this feel so much like when I was using?" Wellll... cause it was. It's called, "Substitution." Sadly there are a lot of different opportunities for that, but that will have to wait for another day to discuss.

In the process, it was painfully clear, that not only was I harming myself, but harming others. At times, it was difficult to keep up with the lies that I was telling myself and others. On top of that, there's nothing like being in a meeting, looking around the room, praying that no one brings your name up, and crushing you in front of people that you actually care what they think of you. It's a great way to turn a zone of safety into a minefield where people could end up voting you off the island. I've seen it happen more than once in my time.

Needless to say, it was so weird inside the fellowship for me, I got honest with my sponsor and talked with him about it. I got so disgusted with myself, my actions, and the shit show I was causing, suddenly and miraculously... I became willing to surrender. It was a humiliating moment. I was rocking a really good guilt and shame spiral, at the time. The ditch was dug a little deeper when I found out he'd already heard what I'd been up to and was "Waiting," to see when I was going to "Surrender and grow up." He said, "You're not as invisible as your disease would like you to think." My awakening as a result of my actions was: that if I started out as the good guy, but then slept with the person, not intending to have an actual relationship with them, becoming the bad guy, then, especially in terms of the fellowship, I didn't have a path back to EVER being the good guy again. I was just another person out for themselves; violating the principles we learn in recovery, adding to an unfortunate narrative about how guys generally are. Recovery is about responsibility and response-ability, as is being an "Honorable," person.

I told myself I was going to "Swear off sex for a year, cause I'm tired of chasing the hit and using women as a fix for my feelings." My sponsor started laughing, and said, "What makes every solution for you, melodramatic and extreme... other than being sponsored by your disease, instead of me?" As we talked, I was offered an alternative, and my disease blinded me too. Instead of engaging in random, and oftentimes meaningless sex with women, who I liked on the surface, using sex to get a hit, and prop up my self-esteem, he invited me to do the work, and focus on developing a meaningful relationship with someone I cared about, that went below the surface; and perhaps what could be sustainable and transformational, instead of transactional. He said from his own experience, authentic and meaningful connection, caused sex to be a very different experience as a result of Love. I realized he understood precisely what I was going through, and that helped me to think and feel less hopeless at that moment.

In modern recovery, what I was doing then nowadays is referred to as "Process addiction." It's applicable to other things I've had unhealthy relationships within terms of parenting... spirituality... food... work... and somehow linking those things with my sense of identity in such a way, that they were at times destructive rather than constructive, especially since, unlike the chemicals, it was important for me to interact with them as a part of a healthy life. There really is something other than our relationship patterns looking like the beaches of Normandy.

I have no idea if this is helpful to you or not. This is just me sharing my experience, as I see it come up daily for so many of us. The biggest danger to my recovery, is an unwillingness to share, what my disease would prefer me to hide, as "Our little secret." As our predecessors said, then, "We're only sick as our secrets," remains relevant for me today. We speak our truth, even when our voices may shake because this is the only disease that we can share our way out of. I'm not saying I'm right… I'm not saying I'm wrong… This is just my honest experience, and what I've learned over time, by not giving up on the process of healing. We can be a little overreactive and draconian on ourselves. We don't need to weaponize our healing against ourselves. Recovery is the pathway to peace.

--Dignity and Grace

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Steve Slater
Steve Slater
May 25, 2022

It's substitution all the way down... Well, let's hope not, but sometimes it seems like it. I often hear the argument that the substitution is better than engaging in the original behavior (e.g., binge watching Netflix or web scrolling is healthier than getting blitzed out of your mind to escape from discomfort). After removing layer upon layer of substitutions in some imagined hierarchy of "badness", I'm down to going to sleep (literally) when I'm overwhelmed. Working on facing the discomfort instead off shutting off.

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