Many recovering sex, porn, and paired substance/sex addicts go to rehab and get an outpatient therapist and think, Gee, I’ve been through treatment and I paid a lot of money for that, and now I’m seeing a therapist and I’m paying a lot of money for that, too. So why is everyone telling me that I need to go to 12-step meetings? Shouldn’t I be cured by now?
Sadly, there is no cure for addiction. It doesn’t matter how good a treatment center is, or how good your therapist is, your addiction is not now nor will it ever be cured. You don’t spend two weeks or a month in rehab and walk out the door perfectly OK. Nor will you see an outpatient therapist and never again struggle with addictive thoughts. Instead, you will develop a basic understanding of your issues, some useful coping skills you can turn to when triggered toward relapse, and a detailed plan for establishing and maintaining sobriety in your life. But you will not be cured of your addiction.
That is why the people around you are stressing the importance of 12-step recovery. In 12-step groups, you will find a safe place to talk about your addiction, its consequences, your struggles with sobriety, and the tribulations of life in general. And you can do this in real time with other people who are dealing with similar issues. If there is not an in-person meeting at a moment when you need help, you can probably find an online meeting. And if you can’t find that, you can call another group member and have and ‘instant meeting’ over the phone or at a nearby coffee shop.
The simple truth is that when you feel triggered toward active addiction, the most effective way to combat those thoughts is to talk to another recovering addict, letting that person know you are struggling and asking for advice on what to do. This can be done in an actual 12-step meeting or in the ‘meetings between the meetings’ where you and your fellow recovering addicts simply reach out to one another to socialize and stay sober.
Sex addiction, porn addiction, and paired substance/sex addiction harm your sense of reality and force you into social and emotional isolation. Twelve-step recovery counteracts these impacts. In 12-step meetings (and other group recovery settings) you can meaningfully interact with other individuals who face challenges similar to your own. This creates an awareness that you are not alone and others have faced similar thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In this way, you learn that your problems are not unique, and others are willing to support you – empathetically and without judgment – on your journey of healing and recovery.
Still, if you are new to recovery, you may balk at the suggestion that you need to attend a 12-step meeting every day (or at all). You may think you can manage your addiction on your own – even though you continually proved, before you entered the process of recovery, that you can’t. If so, you may be asked, “Did you act out every day?” Then you’ll be told that if you did, you should also go to a meeting every day. If you say that daily meetings can’t possibly fit into your schedule, you’ll likely be asked, “How many hours per day did you spend on your addiction?” Then you’ll be told, whatever your answer, that you can surely devote at least one hour to your recovery.
Ultimately, the key to finding the time for daily 12-step meetings is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, it’s to schedule your priorities. One recovering sex addict with a demanding job, a spouse, and three kids says that he still manages to make it to a 12-Step meeting every day. For him, meetings are non-negotiable. No matter what else is going on in his life, he finds a meeting and gets there. This doesn’t mean life doesn’t occasionally happen in unexpected ways. A kid gets sick, a tire goes flat, the power goes out, etc. When faced with situations like these, the addict reminds himself that if he is not sober, he is no good to himself or anyone else. He says, “I have to fix myself before I can fix the world.”