There is a small sign hanging in my office that reads “As far as anyone knows, we’re just a normal family.” I have it there to illustrate that historically sex and love addicts do not really wear their shame on their sleeves that others can see [the one caveat being if a piece of someone’s behavior makes the newspaper or media]. Addicts are constantly working overtime trying to have their night job [their addiction] be camouflaged by their “good guy” day job. Yet as true is that is, their internalized shame is so pervasive that their shame distorts their lenses to the world, thus the need for the reminder on my wall. Sexual compulsivity creates havoc on the soul, incomprehensible demoralization as the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book calls it.
In early recovery we hear that in order to disengage from a decades old behavior the addict has to be willing to change playmates and playgrounds. The best way to do that is to shrink the world of the addict really small. The beauty of No More Secrets (NMS) is our community. Currently we have 11 men living together at five different locations. These self-directed mini half way houses keep people safe, they seem to work and all the while there is fun, fellowship and a built in accountability. It’s a win-win for everyone. For addicts isolation is the kiss of death.
During this early phase, for those men who are still married and whose wives have willingness to try, is the arduous task of reconciliation. Again living with a recovery brother helps to keep emotional balance during a very tumultuous stage of life. Between going to SLAA meetings, attending our NMS men’s group, seeing me, working with a sponsor and then factoring in work and kids, this new recovery life keeps a man busy, safe, sane and sober. It’s the start of a new way of living, a life minus addictive distractions, but it is just a phase and at some point the recovering addict has to start to stretch out of our NMS cocoon.
This summer we had NMS men go to Luxembourg, Reno NV, Las Vegas, Arizona, Atlanta, Mexico, Oregon, the outer banks of North Carolina and even here in state to beach towns and favorite water focused summer vacation spot. Thinking of these men with their historic proclivity of sex addiction out there in the “real world” can be very scary at worst and challenging at best. The prescription for an acting out free life experience is the same whether home or on the road. You don’t have to go to Europe or to the only state in America with legalized prostitution to find opportunity or to be challenged, and just as sex and vice is everywhere so can recovery be, if you make it happen.
Any savvy traveler knows the value of a before departure check list, you know like did I pack my toiletries?, or do I have enough socks and don’t forget those flip-flops for the pool and for the recovering sex addict one other “must” is on our check list: did I pack my recovery? Big Book, journal, phone and phone list, local meeting schedule when available and most important, a check-in plan with community and sponsor. And finally don’t forget to pack H.P. [that stands for Higher Power so you don’t have to just rely on will power alone]. The Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book says that in recovery… we meet these conditions [challenges] everyday, those who do not meet them still has the alcoholic mind… Just like the diabetic who has to on a daily basis monitor his blood sugar, food intake and insulin so does the recovering addict have to attend to his daily wellness needs, it’s a matter of life and death.
Recovery starts when men first come in my office, but it has to go beyond me, our groups, our fellowship and our meetings. There are 168 hours in a week, that’s a lot of time for the addiction to rear its ugly head. The only antidote is to make recovery transportable and if the addict is mindful to take his medicine he will receive a daily reprieve. That’s the best any addict can hope for, because one is never cured but this disease need not kill anyone ever again, it is treatable.
Going on the road? Good idea to take the essentials. Happy trails and stay sane, safe and sober while enjoying the summer. With sobriety comes another day in paradise.