Feedback Sucks

One of the problems I have with 12-step groups is that I have a hard time balancing acceptance with feedback. When you go to a meeting, one of the time-honored traditions is that there is no cross-talk. That means that when you share that you can’t ignore your lover’s texts, I don’t interrupt you nor do I use my sharing time say that I think your chances for sexual sobriety are non-existent. For those who have never been to a 12-step meeting, often there’s a reading and then afterward people “share” or talk about what that reading makes them think of in terms of their own recovery. Sometimes people will just talk about what’s going on in their lives instead, which is referred to as “getting current.” I do not like “getting current.” I tell myself that I’m not focused on the solution. I tell myself that I’m dragging the meeting down. I tell myself that I should share with my sponsor, not the group. I tell myself that it might be triggering for someone. I worry about which words to use, what to leave in, what to leave out. I worry.

As an aside; my husband doesn’t like meetings much. Me going to a lot of meetings is a trigger for him that reminds him of how awful things were when I was seeing Fr. M. After going to meetings, meetings, meetings and working the steps and doing all the things recovering sex addicts are supposed to do, I was a whole hell of a lot worse than I was when I started and I still couldn’t stop masturbating. Of course now we both know that’s because I was in an abusive relationship with my therapist. That, coupled with my acceptance of the Catholic doctrine that masturbation is a mortal sin, the whole thing was like a freight train out of control. Have I mentioned recently that I’m grateful to be an atheist?

There’s no substitute for telling the truth about yourself to a group of people and experiencing their acceptance of you. It’s the beginning of separating You from Your Behavior, it reduces the shame that all addicts feel, and although it sounds like avoiding responsibility for your actions, it’s not. It’s merely the first (necessary) step toward changing.

I’m good at meetings. I keep my shares short and on topic. I stay aware of whether or not I’m getting my point across and try to inject humor where I can when it’s appropriate. I don’t cuss. I don’t dump. No drunk-a-logs from me. I also try to keep tabs on the tension between my responsibility to the meeting and my responsibility to myself. I don’t get current.

Some of you are probably wondering by now if I can smell my own bullshit.

I can, but to be truthful, it’s pretty faint. Still, a few months ago I thought that maybe I needed to make a change in how I do meetings. Maybe I needed to be a little more open and honest and share more about how I’m doing. That’s idea was cool when was doing well, and getting current wasn’t embarrassing but lately, getting current hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. Plus, I no longer have the sobriety date to back up my words of wisdom.

I’ve been real grateful for the no cross-talk rule. Of course, most people are willing to share something from their own experience that might be helpful to someone else. It’s can be a very gentle form of feedback in the sense that it’s not ostensibly addressed to any one person. This sort of thing has been very helpful to me over the years. But I’ve noticed that when I’m not doing so well, I tend to be very selective about the feedback I glean from other people’s shares. Actually, I notice that other people are like that. I’m different. More enlightened. But I have a hard time arguing with the logic that what other people like me are susceptible to, I am also susceptible to. So a few weeks ago, I asked my group for feedback. I told them exactly what I’d been doing, and answered the questions they had.

At the time, it was very painful. Embarrassing. Humiliating even. And the feedback sucked. Nobody gave me permission to continue acting out.

But I’m sober now, and I’m glad I asked.



  1. Thanks for this article. The meeting I go to (SAA) has us break into groups of three and then share and give each other feedback in that small group. It works there. I also run group coaching meetings where that’s the main thing I do — give feedback to people. So as you can guess, my background is that of real openness to feedback. But I understand what you’re saying, and I think that there are times I don’t really want feedback from other people either. I think that’s especially true if the feedback moves into advice-giving … but even more if the people giving feedback are not in touch with their own bs, so that they have compassion towards and encouragement of you.

    I remember from my time at Gentle Path that the counselors kept us in tight reins with the feedback we’d give each other. When that tight rein is kept, I think it can be a really good – and really safe – thing. Glad you had at least one good experience with feedback lately – even though it sounds like it might have been not fun to hear.

    Love the blog … keep it up!

  2. Keep trudging! You’re doing great. You are going through the PROCESS of recovery, just like the rest of us.

    I really am thankful for what both you and Eli shared about your feelings about sharing during meetings. I think I have another post to write on this topic — but essentially I recently stopped going to the meetings because I always wanted to be perfect and just saw myself so full of bullshit and everyone else in the room the same. I was simply not getting anything from the process, yet I was pretending that I was — and that felt dishonest. The only way I can get better is to be honest and me and my Higher Power are still working on that one, one day at a time.

  3. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about one of the things you mentioned – that’s it feels fine to “get current” when you’re doing fine, but it doesn’t when you’re not. I always want to be the “cured” addict who can talk about what I “used to do” but I sure don’t want to be the one talking about what I’m struggling with right now! It’s more fun to be the example of how the program works, the example of someone who’s all better, not someone who’s fighting in the trenches.

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