Monday, June 7, 2010

My Secret Shame -- Part 4

I could tell you a long story about how the seeds of addiction and shame were planted in my childhood, how I suffered from some traumatic experiences, my feelings of inadequacy, my early sexual memories and behaviors which escalated once I began to explore gay sex as a young man. By that time, I had become a full blown sex addict. It would take me several more years before I could accept that fact. It would take me another decade before I came into recovery for the first time.

Perhaps I will tell you that story some day. I have indeed written my autobiography. Writing the book was an exercise in trying to piece together a very fragmented life in order to look at the light and dark sides of myself. It became a cathartic experience during which I sought to become whole. I hope to have my memoirs published at some point in the future. For now I will tell you about my experience in recovery.

As I had implied, my journey toward recovery began after I joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Within the course of the next year, I finally found the courage to seek help from Sex Addicts Anonymous also known as SAA. As crazy as it may sound, I didn't know how I would be able to explain what I perceived as my perverted behaviors to another human being. I didn't stop to consider that people in that program might have experienced behaviors that were similar to my own.

I was horribly nervous when I met with two men at a Ground Round restaurant. They shared their personal experiences of addiction with me while telling me how the program worked. I couldn't believe that I was meeting in a public place while having such a discussion. What struck me as particularly odd was that these two fellows didn't seem to have any shame in talking about their pasts during our meeting.

This was to be the meeting before the meeting. Out of respect for the other group members, prospective members were always met in a public place before the new members were allowed to attend a meeting. This served two purposes. It created a feeling of safety for the current members and it also gave the new member an idea of what was about to happen. I will never forget that day.

I arrived at the actual meeting to discover to my horror that I was the only gay man there. What only served to make matters worse were those two women in the group. I had no idea how I would ever be able to talk about my “degrading homosexual experiences” with a group of straight men and women.

I quickly learned that, while many of us engaged in different compulsive behaviors, the underlying feelings were the same for us all. I quickly formed bonds with these men and women who spoke intimately about their own experiences in a way that quickly disarmed me. I didn't know what to make the attitudes of the longer-term members as they discussed their experiences. Many of them seemed to be happy. I decided that whatever they had was something I wanted for myself. I did my best to do what they told me had worked for them.

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