“…..I’m a believer in Christ, and I am a recovering sex addict.”
Those were the jarring initial words I heard after I walked into my first Christ-centered twelve-step meeting several months ago, before I had admitted to myself that I couldn’t control whatever had gotten me to this point. Ok, I just have to dwell on those initial words for a moment. A “believer in Christ AND a recovering sex addict?” How is that even possible? What does that mean and how does that apply to me? At that point in time, I didn’t or wouldn’t or even couldn’t admit that it did apply to me. I didn’t know what sexual addiction was or if I even believed in it. I thought it was an excuse guys used when they got caught.
When I went to my first meeting, I was only going to satisfy my wife and her counselor. I certainly did not believe I belonged in that meeting. I hadn’t admitted to anyone that I had more than one acting out partner. I hadn’t admitted to myself I had a problem. This stuff didn’t apply to me. Sexual addiction is a term people use to try and excuse their affairs or using porn or to try and get out of sex related crimes. I wasn’t that. Those guys needed help. I asked the leaders if this group even applied to me as I had only had a long term affair and wasn’t addicted to pornography or with multiple partners or anything like that.
Nine months later, here I was again. At a twelve-step meeting for sexual addiction, trying to satisfy my wife and her counselor and mine, hoping to keep my marriage from ending. Sitting in there again, knowing what to expect, but listening closely this time. Did this apply to me? I have been honest with my counselor. Could I be honest with myself and with other people? My shame was starting to envelope me.
I hadn’t paid that much attention the first time I attended. Now, I was in shock, desperately grasping for some type of stability. The facilitator went through some opening rules and then someone read “Our Problem.” One phrase really stuck with me: “Many of us found we were powerless and unable to control our behaviors.”
Powerless. Does that apply to me? Am I really powerless or is that a cop-out? Didn’t I have the ability to make my own decisions? How can that be, if God gave me free will? I don’t get that yet.
After the first time I admitted to an affair, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. I told my wife I had changed. I only wanted her. My affair had only been the result of problems in our marriage and they were both of our faults, right? After so many years of marriage, we had just stopped talking.
So I prayed and confessed my sins (well, some of my sins). God took that guilt away from me, I was baptized again, and I knew that He could help me have a great marriage. I was definitely renewed in body, mind and spirit. I had this beat and no one had to know everything. I mean, I know other guys kept things to themselves. That is how marriage works, right? As long as I don’t stray again and I stay faithful and keep my word from now on.
Only, I didn’t. I really just wanted to make sure that my affair partner was ok. I had ruined her life. That made sense that I would do so. It wasn’t anything other than concern and making sure her life was good, and I kind of wanted to see if she still thought about me as well. But it was really just concern. That is what I told myself. Anyone would have done it and it just showed I had empathy. It started out that way. Then she decided she wanted to “help me” get out of my marriage so I could be free because that is obviously what I wanted by contacting her again. I was terrified … then several days passed and nothing so I thought that was that. I was free and clear. Then she texted my wife. Is that really what powerless means? Is it what the Apostle Paul said about hating sin and doing it anyway? Does that mean I have a problem?
Listening in the group, the readings spoke a lot about admitting our behavior to ourselves and others. I didn't know if I could do that. I confessed to my counselor, but my wife really doesn’t have to know everything. That would only damage her more. She and her counselor want us to do an “intensive” with a specialist where I tell my wife everything I have ever done and take a polygraph to make sure I am telling the truth. I have taken a polygraph before for an employer and lied on that and didn’t get caught. I could do the same at whatever “disclosure” was. I am not sure I really believe that telling her everything is the right thing to do. It will just damage her even more. She can’t be in the same room with me now without cursing me and wanting to attack me. I can’t even comprehend how much worse that will be if she heard everything. She suspects. I know she suspects. I am afraid of what she suspects. She suspects things I don’t want to give voice to. I am not sure I can even after talking to my counselor. I know I can’t hurt her with all of my issues. I admitted all my problems, well most of them, to my counselor. I don’t see why I need to do more than that. I don’t want to really think about them and what they mean.
Then we got to an explanation of “How it Works.” This reading covered how a twelve-step program of recovery worked and why it was structured this way. I still don’t get it but evidently there is some requirement to do these to stay in this group and I can’t quit yet or my marriage is definitely over. So this is the crux of the reading: a walk-through of all twelve steps with Bible verses applied to each. Makes sense, at least there is a Biblical reference to back them up. And then, this statement: “Half measures availed us nothing.” That’s what they said. No half measures. That stung. My life was nothing but half measures. That’s how I had been approaching my marriage, my relationship with God, my relationship with my kids, most of my life. Half measures. Just enough to get by. I thought that’s what everyone did. But I know that isn’t right. But what do I do about it? They just said many wanted a softer, easier way. I guess I have been trying a softer, easier way. I thought God forgives and heals? Why wouldn’t this all just go away? Did I not pray enough?
The leader read a devotional, a “share.” He talked about intimacy, about how sexual addiction was really a disease of intimacy. That he personally didn’t know how to be intimate before “recovery.” I am not really sure what he meant. He said that he didn’t have real relationships with other people, with other men. Everything was surface. That he was thankful for his recovery and for this group that allowed him to develop real intimate relationships with other men. To practice intimacy in a safe setting where he knew he wouldn’t be judged. So he opened up the meeting for guys to share for 3-5 minutes on the topic, to check in, and to share any prayer requests--kind of like a Bible Study group.
Only it wasn’t at all. The sharing portion wasn’t what I expected. It was the opposite. I expected excuses, guys trying to justify their actions, to blame their wives or their jobs or stress for their issues. Exactly what I was doing, .blaming and not really looking inward. I figured that most everyone here was like me, trying to do whatever they had to in order to save their marriages. It didn’t work that way. That isn’t what I heard. I didn’t expect this at all. Every person talked about what the reading meant to them, what they got from it. How it impacted them and what they could take from it to learn and incorporate in their life. This was all about men taking responsibility and looking for healing and talking about their struggles. And they all did so in a very honest, straightforward, TRANSPARENT way. This terrified me. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t face this. I couldn’t be rigorously honest. How could I ever be comfortable enough to do this in front of someone else? I couldn’t even really spend a lot of time thinking to myself, admitting to myself, what I have done. These guys were talking about private, intimate thoughts.
And then I heard myself say, “Hi, I’m a Christian and I am struggling with … I’m not sure what.”
Next time … Isolating
K. LeVeq is a Christ-follower, husband, father, writer, sponsor, and corporate flunky living with his wife and two boys in a suburb of Houston, TX. Writing is an important part of his recovery from addiction as is counseling, accountability, sponsoring, and working the 12 steps. He is working on a new blog entitled IsolationSucks.com and is working on a book tentatively titled "Lazarus People."