One of the reasons it’s easier to get sober in rehab is there’s no drug there. For sex addicts that means no magazines, no TV, no computers, no phones. There’s also a dress code. No sleeveless shirts. Shorts and skirts must be close to the knee. No open toed shoes or sandals without socks. No sunglasses or hats inside.
Unfortunately, we sex addicts can manufacture our drug in our own brains just by fantasizing. That means we have to agree to abstain from deliberate fantasy, which I did when I went to rehab.
You see, it’s the lust that’s the problem. When you’re not sober, that energy comes through loud and clear through a myriad of subtle and subconscious signals. It’s how sexaholics and sanons find each other so readily – that sexaholic energy is like the dust that surrounds Pig Pen. When we’re not sober we attract people who have a need to clean.
Early in my recovery I was at a 12-step international conference and had come late to dinner. There weren’t any seats left with my home group members and I was standing at the doorway feeling increasingly more panicked when a really nice woman came and rescued me. It turns out that her husband was a sex addict but wasn’t ready to admit the truth. He’d had sex with strangers, a hefty porn habit, and all the core beliefs that a typical sex addict has. She was there to learn more so she could save him and their marriage, or at least not make the same mistake again with another man if they ended up divorcing. But that probably wouldn’t happen since he was at heart a very good person and surely would come around if only she could figure out how to get him into recovery. She was very nice, but by the end of the meal I was ready to stab her with my fork and I am not a violent person. At one point, she actually took my plate and started cutting up my meat for me! No shit! I skipped desert and hid from her for the rest of the convention.
This evening more than anything else showed me the truth of how sexaholic energy works. Something about me caught this woman’s attention, and something about her made me feel safe and welcome. And it gave me a huge insight into why it’s often much more difficult for co-addicts to recover. She was nice. She was pretty in a wholesome, clean way; nothing slutty or coarse about her manner or dress. She didn’t deserve the shitty husband that cheated on her. All her friends back home told her that she should leave him and find someone decent. When she told me that, I could see that her friends’ opinions really mattered to her. It counted that they saw her as a saint for putting up with his nonsense.
Of course society is fickle, and there are just as many people who will condemn a woman for staying with a cheater, but there’s still an overwhelming sense of a woman wronged, which is TRUE – we DO wrong our spouses, we ARE to blame – but that’s not the whole story. And ultimately, it’s the addicts who get treatment and the co-addicts who stay home and keep things together. That doesn’t seem right to me. I believe that co-addicts are every bit as sick as addicts, they just don’t LOOK as sick and that means they often don’t get the help and care they need to do what’s best for themselves.
There are a lot of people who look at a Pig Pen and say to themselves, there’s someone to avoid. And it’s not that there’s anything intrinsically good or bad about wanting to help someone clean up. The problem is that like addicts, co-addicts don’t have a CHOICE. In recovery, everyone gets back their freedom to choose.