Why I Love Sex and Hate Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous

By Amy Dresner 03/07/14

How am I supposed to find recovery when the meetings themselves trigger me?

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photo: Adam Hendershott

I have a t-shirt that says “There’s no such thing as free pussy” but if you’re a sex addict, that’s not really true. Still I’d love to wear that tee into a SLAA meeting and ruffle everybody’s feathers.   

If you’re not familiar with SLAA—(Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous)—you are “not to indulge in graphic descriptions of your acting out behavior” during your share. If you do, some other member might raise their hand and declare that they are being “triggered” by your share and you need to “redirect.” Needless to say I live in TERROR of that happening. Every time I share at a meeting and am not immediately shut down by some prude, I feel like I’ve just dodged a lethal and humiliating bullet. 

I love the quote from John Barrymore: “Sex: the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble.” I wish it wasn’t true but for me it is almost Biblical in its revelation…if I believed in the Bible. 

I had an SLAA sponsor for awhile. When I first met her, she told me that I wasnʼt allowed to even talk to men for 30 days. That felt very unrealistic. When she heard how out of control I was sexually, she adjusted, making her only requirements that I use a condom and not fuck one specific sweaty promiscuous movie star I knew. That seemed doable. Despite her generous guidelines, I began acting out sporadically and stopped calling her. Then of course I ran into her in an AA meeting.

“How are you, mama?” She asks and gives me a tight hug. 

“Iʼm ok. I havenʼt been acting out,” I say quickly.

“Thatʼs good,” she says. “Call me.”

“The idea of acting out it is kind of grossing me out.”

“For now,” she adds.

“But whatʼs the deal with when you stop acting out that all these dudes are on your dick?” As soon as I said it I realize how crass I sounded. “Like yesterday I was crying and on my period and two guys texted me, trying to have sex with me...”

“Thatʼs the way it works,” she smiled. “You set a boundary and it gets tested.”

Sure, the Universe is testing me with cock. Honestly I find it a bit farfetched. Iʼm sure the Universe has better and more important things to worry about than my pussy.

Boundaries or “bottom lines” as they’re known in SLAA are behaviors you will not engage in or people you will not engage with. Many people come into SLAA because of a specific person who is called your “qualifier.” Not breaking your "bottom lines" is what determines your “sobriety” in SLAA. It makes sexual sobriety very…uhhh personal and quite amorphous. One guy confessed to fucking a prostitute but because prostitutes weren’t one of  his “bottom lines,” he was still keeping his time.

At most SLAA meetings I frequent, very few people raise their hands as available to sponsor. It seems like a lot of sheep and few shepherds which doesn’t instill much hope in the program for me. They also give chips for one day, two days and three days, as well as every month, further encouraging my doubt that the program is feasible for any length of time. But perhaps it’s just me. Being newly sober again, I’m more concerned with not picking up a drink or drug than picking up a guy. Progress not perfection. 

I was on my way to one meeting and I texted a guy I had been casually sleeping with for the past year or two. “I wish you were here to fuck my depression away,” I wrote.  After leaving another meeting, I set up a….uh….”playdate” with another of my regular fuck buddies. So I guess it’s fair to say I find meetings in themselves “triggering.” I am not alone in this. Susanna Brisk, a gorgeous woman, close friend, comic and author of the hilarious and outré blog malibumom.com said, “I was at my second SLAA meeting of the day and two hours later I was back with my ex, having electrifying sex because being around those people made me miss him even more.”

“We learn to value sex as a by-product of sharing, commitment, trust and cooperation in a partnership,” is one of the “signs of recovery.” Maybe I’m sick or immature but that sounds incredibly boring and creepy and a lot like marital sex which was….well I’m sure you’ve heard. Brisk adds, “Like sex is all supposed to be ‘loving’ and about ‘commitment’ and not ‘sensation.’ Hey we could teleport back to the 1950's, I could put on an apron and wait until my husband comes home to fuck me missionary style……Staying in a sexless or sexually monotonous relationship is not my idea of recovery, and if that makes me a sex addict then...okay.”

A big no-no in SLAA is “intriguing” which is basically flirting or fishing around. I’m sorry but that is one of the most fun and, dare I say, titillating parts of life. So I can’t drink anymore, can’t do drugs, shouldn’t smoke and now can’t even flirt? Why not toss out televisions and cars and I’ll just become Amish! I get that flirting gives you a “hit” but so does making people laugh and exercise and shopping. Where do we draw the line?

I wish that SLAA was as humorous as it is shown in Thanks for Sharing but that has not been my experience. There’s an occasional chuckle of identification but in general, people take it VERY seriously and consider it a “disease.” Personally, I’m on the fence about that. Sex and love addiction certainly feels compulsive at times, but the disease mentality is pushing it for me. 

My roommate in treatment, Ali K., was also a sex addict. She was a 20-something beauty with porcelain skin, red hair and crystal blue eyes. Why they roomed us together is a mystery to me. I think they thought we’d be a good influence on one another but of course, it turned out to be just the opposite. Neither of us shamed the other which allowed us to be open about our exploits and engage more. She also hates SLAA. “I hate it because everyone in there is gross and they all seem to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and I’m single forever,” she said. “Plus I sit there and think about them fucking. Soooo gross!” Well, there you have it.

There’s also the “sexual anorexics,” people who have withdrawn completely from sex and love, because of a fear of intimacy or a fear of engaging in their old patterns and relapsing. Of course, this is not recovery. It is the opposite on the spectrum from sex and love addiction and the program makes that very clear. One girl, an anorexic, spoke of her disdain for the many platonic hugs she was getting from men recently. "Oh honey, I wish my problem was just hugs. Try getting fucked by newcomers in your car and then let’s talk,” I thought.  After hearing her and a few other anorexics share, I wondered if sexual anorexia shouldn’t have its own program.

One speaker at a meeting told a story about a “crazy” ex girlfriend who wielded a knife at him and the cops were called and restraining orders were issued. This was the event that got him into SLAA. “Wait," I thought, “were we married?” 

Through trial and error, I figured out what spins me out and what doesn’t. If I’ve been friends with a guy for a while first and then we have casual sex and they still act like my friend (the caveat being that I don’t desire a romantic relationship with them), I’m fine. A comic I’d been sleeping with for the past two years wanted to meet me at a certain comedy club and have sex.  But where, I inquired. 

“There are plenty of places to do it.” 

“Sounds like you’ve done this before,” I shot back.  

“Yes or no?” He demanded.  

Of course, I obliged, having shitty boundaries.   

When I got home I shot him a text, “Uhh, I found your gum. It was in my panties.”  

“I was wondering where that went!” Anybody with a long term fuck buddy will tell you the same thing: it’s hot at the beginning and all business at the end. “Always a pleasure,” he said, as he gave me a peck. Not exactly the romance I’m looking for but what’s wrong with recreational sex until Mr. Right comes around? 

If I sleep with somebody before I really know them, then I’m waiting in painful anticipation for the texts and the next meet up. I received a delightful message from one guy after I slept with him that he “was not interested in doing things together. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea because I was horny that night and gave you the dick.” Oh lucky me! Caught you on the right night! I’m not going to lie. That made me feel like shit and in the spirit of “restraint of pen and tongue," I did not respond. I just blasted “Fuck you” by Cee Lo and blocked him immediately. Of course, prior to the consummation he’d said, “We don’t even have to have sex. We get along so well that everything else is gravy.” Still getting played by players……ugh. 

Sometimes I feel as if I SHOULD feel shame about things I’m doing when in fact I really don’t. Brisk says it perfectly, “How can I relate to someone who doesn't have my sexual appetite or is trying to suppress it? My sexuality is one of the few things I find empowering. So until I'm letting ten guys tag team me at a bus stop, I really don't see my sex drive as a problem. And even then, this is America, and if dick empowers me and I'm not being abused, what's wrong with that?"

At the end of the meeting, they close with the serenity prayer, adding that “hand holding is optional” as it could be “triggering” for some people. I have yet to see somebody not hold another person’s hand. But I will say that there was this one foxy screenwriter who sat next to me at multiple meetings and with whom I’d exchange regular glances and eye rolls. He would squeeze my hand pretty tightly during the ending prayer which I found… a little exhilarating, I must admit.

Amy Dresner is a columnist for The Fix, who has written about sexual addiction and Patrick Carnes among many other topics. 

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