A (Long) Meandering Walk Through Shame


Shooze asked me in a comment why I chose SAA instead of SA. My first thought was that I haven’t done a very good job of not publicly identifying myself with my group, which is of our traditions in 12-step recovery. I’m really not sure how that applies to me as an anonymous blogger. I want to be open and honest about my experience in recovery and I’m not really sure what’s the right thing to do. I’d love to have some feedback about this.

There aren’t as many women in recovery for sex addiction as there are men. It’s more shameful for women to act out sexually – when’s the last time you heard someone make a snide comment about the groom wearing white? Men aren’t the only ones who lie. It’s easy to say cybersex, web sex, or phone sex isn’t real sex so it doesn’t count. Anonymous sex doesn’t count because there’s no love. An emotional affair doesn’t count because there’s no sex. If you’re saying something doesn’t count, I can guarantee that it does.

And women can act out “under the radar,” which means we can dig a pretty deep hole before we seek recovery. Women can be legally exhibitionistic by wearing a short skirt with no panties or a sheer top. A man is not going to be able to leaf through a porn magazine in an airport, but women read romance novels in public all the time.

So it can be tough for women. I remember laughing out loud when my former therapist told me I needed to go to meetings. Leaving aside the fact that he had wasn’t a good therapist (having phone sex with your clients will not improve their mental health) it seemed crazy to think that going to meetings would help. Walking into a room full of male sex addicts had been my favorite porn script.

Of course, when I actually went to the meeting, it wasn’t anything like what I expected. There were men with way over 10 years of sobriety, men with 3 years, 5 years. All of them were serious about their recovery, none of them were afraid of me, and it was a sexually sober environment. That’s a big deal. If you walk into a meeting and feel sexual tension, it’s probably not a healthy meeting. For the newcomer, that’s vital because their sexual energy is usually spewing out in every direction and a sober meeting can handle that.

As I’ve written before, the men in my home group were what kept me from killing myself when things really bizarre with my therapist. They still don’t know the gory details of what happened. I’ve shared that he was a bad therapist, that we were inappropriately sexual with each other, but that’s about it. There really isn’t a lot of that kind of talk in meetings. We try to focus on the solution, not the problem. It’s boring to hear someone’s sex-a-log. And of course I never told them the truth about what was going on when it was happening.

But if I’d had a good therapist, I’d never have been a sex addict. I’d have been treated for a ptsd reaction, panic disorder, and probably gotten some therapy for my unresolved child abuse issues. If my current therapist has a fetish, he hasn’t shared it with me. We don’t flirt. We don’t exchange sexual fantasies. I don’t know if he ever thinks about screwing a demon. I don’t even know if he believes in demons. He does listen to me but he doesn’t encourage me to share my sexual fantasies. I don’t have his email address. We don’t talk for hours on the phone. I don’t know whether he prefers small or large breasts.

I brought in the emails I’d exchanged with my former therapist (did I tell you he was a priest?) and showed them to my current therapist. I wanted him to tell me how much of what happened was my fault. I’m an adult. I participated. I wasn’t all that interested in having sex with the devil and leather sheets aren’t my thing, but this wasn’t a case of some sweet innocent being seduced. I wanted my current therapist to know the truth. Obviously I was a dangerous woman. I don’t feel like a victim. I feel like a really bad person.

I’m lucky that my former therapist started by lying about how much therapy would cost. He was supposed to be counseling me for free. Instead, he gave me a story about how insurance generally didn’t pay for psychotherapy. He explained that this was how he contributed to his order’s finances, his “job” so to speak. That was the very first time I met him and I’m absolutely certain there was nothing inappropriate about my behavior. I was afraid, newly converted, and looking forward to getting things straightened out over the summer. I feel like a bad person and then remember that he used me right from the very start. I was never a client. I was a mark.

I started out planning to write about a woman I recently tried to help. She is brand new in recovery and not even sure she’s a sex addict, which given her behaviors is such an astonishing level of denial I recommended treatment rather than meetings. I never do that!

So how did I get off on this tangent? Something is wrong. Usually I don’t think that much about sex, I don’t scroll through the pay per view listings, and I don’t stomp around feeling angry because I can’t masturbate. This is an old hamster wheel for me. It shouldn’t have happened but it did. I wish I’d behaved differently but I didn’t. I’m a good person. I’m lucky to be alive. There’s really nothing special about me. I’m a textbook case of what happens when you’re sexually abused (that word still sounds wrong to me) by your therapist.

Maybe this is all recovery is: noticing when something is wrong and then doing something right. Check H.A.L.T. (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). I’m hungry. I’m lonely. So it would seem that what I really need is food and a connection with someone who knows my story and cares.

Cereal, and a phone call to my current therapist. Then a shower and maybe a walk, even though it’s raining instead of this meander through shame.

Am I dealing with my pain or nurturing it? I swear, it’d be easier to be fixed. Or to get fucked. But since a fix isn’t possible and the other doesn’t work a walk would be good. That’s what I need. Not sex.



  1. The previous therapist sounds, well EVIL, really. It wasn’t your fault. I am appalled that this happened to you and that he charged you for it! Did your new therapist want to report this guy? Maybe I’m overreacting, (yeah, I do that from time to time) but it seems to me the therapist should be in jail. Abuse is the right word. ‘Nuf said.

    As addicts, we seem to be the perfect receptacle for carried shame. Reminds me of the title of the story by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried.

  2. “Am I dealing with my pain or nurturing it?”

    I think about this a lot. I’ve been writing and re-writing my addiction and abuse history long before I knew that it was addiction or abuse that I was experiencing, and now that I’m in recovery I am forced to do this again. My therapist might say that I was just trying to work out what was happening to me, but I might also add that there was a way that I was getting a masochistic high out of emotionally returning to specific moments in time and shaming myself over and over again. I worry that I do this when sharing my story in a meeting or writing it down on paper.

    I know that I need to allow my emotions to come through when doing these exercises, but I feel so done with feeling desperate, lonely, ashamed, depressed. I’m tired of feeling so bad all the time. I’ve been so trained to believe that I’m not getting anything out of therapy/meetings/conversations about abuse/addiction if I’m not emotionally tormented and crying, that when I have actually been happy recently I quickly pathologize it as some manic or detached thing: I must not be emotionally present if I am not feeling the “correct” emotion.

  3. Actually, upon rereading some of your older posts, I thought maybe you did choose SA. I’m still not entirely sure, so maybe you haven’t violated any cyber traditions? I dunno. I am also a female sex addict and
    it’s tough. I’m really new in recovery and sometimes feel like damaged goods. But being able to read your blog has been very helpful and inspiring to me. It is good to get another woman’s perspective on sobriety since the number of women here is small compared to the number of men in the fellowship.

  4. thank you for this share. I can relate to some of your feelings and this is also because you have great style of writing. You write with such honestly that I am amazed at your courage to share on internet like this. I am recent in recovery and I am a believer but still i like your blog very much. Thank you

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