Last December the No More Secrets Program hosted our 9th annual Holiday Party. It is an upscale event at a venue on the lake, with catered food, white linens, fine china and live entertainment. We all get to play adult and dress up for a night and all this without alcohol. It is just for the men and women of NMS, no children allowed. For the 82 people in attendance, it’s a break from the work of trying to get well and as it says in the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book on page 132: “we are not a glum lot, we absolutely insist on having a good time.” The live entertainment, I might add, is NMS generated. When we are not wearing the hat of a sex and love addict this collective group of people have a wide range of skills and talents.
So let’s take a look at the demographic backgrounds of these 82 recovering people. I wonder if you fit in somewhere. There were 35 single men, 14 of whom are married but came without their spouses. We had 8 single women from our women’s program and 19 couples.
Of the 54 men at the party 38 are college graduates, 18 men have advanced degrees. The largest area of study? We have 8 men with MBAs. Four men are educators on a collegiate level, 3 clergy, 3 in the helping professions, 3 film makers, 3 former military men, 2 lawyers and 2 retired men. The largest single area of employment, which is not surprising considering where we are located, is the tech industry with 11 men in that field. We have people who work for city agencies and in blue collar positions. We also have 7 men with 7-figure plus net worth. At the end of the day this illness is an equal opportunity destroyer. This disease doesn’t care how smart you are or how much money you’re worth, it doesn’t care about religion, race or what country you were born in, but together it can be defeated.
Fourteen men were at their first holiday party. They are easy to spot. They’re the ones who look like a deer caught in the headlights. I do not assign seats but I can always bet where they will sit. They will always choose the table furthest away from the podium tucked away in the corner of the room. Their intimacy disorder is alive and well. I push them during the course of the evening to go up to a man they do not know and introduce themselves; many really struggle with that assignment.
For the alums it is like old home week. Some of them only connect during our events, others see each other all the time. The ease and the camaraderie is wonderful to watch. One of the men did a quick head count and saw that we had eight generations of sponsor/sponsee in the house. We lined up and took a historic photo. That kind of recovery family tree line is not uncommon in Alcoholic Anonymous but it never happens in SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous). People don’t stick around that long!
As I said the entertainment is self-generated. Two people played piano and one of them also sang. One of our newest members is a concert cellist and graced us with two Bach pieces. It was heavenly. One of our three film makers showed an 8 minute film he made this year that moved many to tears. We heard a hip hop song written to me with choreography and a hip hop ode to the disease, backwards baseball cap and all. We were entertained by three free poetry performances. As always the time just flew and everyone left with a smile in their heart.
Two of my favorite yearly highlights are the group photo which one of our men takes. Trying to get 82 people to crowd together layered on chairs and sitting on the floor is quite an experience. Then to get them still enough for a photo is the ultimate challenge, it always seems to work and I have a wall full of large framed photos to prove it. The second fun piece for me is my annual speech. I call it my state of the union address. I catch everyone up on our efficacy during the year. This year we are over 40%, which is an amazing statistic in a field where 15% is norm. It’s a tribute to the men who walk in my office.
This year something happened that has never happened before. This past June when my latest group graduated NMS they wanted to give me a gift. Often times that does happen. I have a clock in my group room that a past group gave me, but this was different. Three years ago I began to write a book. It was a weekly diary type book about the real recovery of real people in real time. I call it “A Year of No More Secrets.” Up until that point I had been unable to find a publisher and those seven men decided to give me my book! And they promised to present it to me at the Holiday Party in December. Well true to their word they did. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement and I love the cover. Next up is one final proofing and then a release date. Woo, the entire thing is a little unreal to me. I am forever grateful to those men.
For just one evening we got to celebrate our recoveries. We had couples in the room who had repaired their marriages this year and others who are still in disarray. We had two pregnant women and a guy who just bought a new house with his wife in a marriage that almost died three years ago. We had five men who sent kids off to college and another man whose father had just passed away. One recovering couple just became grandparents for the first time. It was the celebration of the cycle of life, warts and all.
Susan Cheavers, the author of My Name is Bill W., wrote that active addicts are a community of one, we in recovery are a community of many. As it says on the SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) coin “You are not alone” and if you want what we have we are here for you. There is always room for one more in NMS.