A couple weeks ago I attended a Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meeting for the first time. It was powerful! Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. I was also struck by how honest and vulnerable everyone was.
I’ve been to multitudinous LDS Addiction Recovery Program meetings and they’ve helped me immensely. In those meetings I first learned I’m not alone in this war, and through those meetings the Lord gave me faith to not give up. The most memorable and meaningful ARP meetings I’ve attended were the ones in which I and my brothers were vulnerable, when we openly shared our fears and doubts with each other. No hiding, no shame, just open honesty.
Unfortunately in my experience a common theme in many ARP meetings I’ve attended is “hope-imonies.” Instead of being vulnerable by sharing what’s on our minds, or being honest about where we are and where we want to be, the meeting becomes a “testimony” meeting where we all say we “know” that the 12 Steps work… except most of us haven’t worked them to full recovery (with the exception of the facilitator and a veteran or two), so we don’t actually have a witness that they work. We certainly want them to work, and we may believe that they work, but that’s not the same as knowing it. I was describing this to my therapist and he said, “Ah yes, a hope-imony meeting.” For me those kinds of meetings aren’t so helpful because they’re not honest, vulnerable, or even truthful. And don’t get me wrong—I’ve done it too. I have shared many a hope-imony in those meetings.
I remember the first time I heard raw vulnerability in an ARP meeting. That evening I went because I needed hope. I had recently relapsed and I wasn’t sure the meetings were helping me. When my turn came I passed. A couple shares later, one man’s words caught my attention. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “I’m grateful to be alive. Years ago I was in a dark place. I had borrowed my drug of choice from a dealer I’d known for a long time, but I didn’t have the money to pay him. A couple guys showed up at my apartment, dragged me into the basement, tied me to a pole and beat me till they thought I was dead. By the grace of God someone found me and I woke up in a hospital some time later. I should’ve died in that basement. But God rescued me and gave me another chance. I’ve not been perfect since then, and I’ve relapsed since then, but after that night I knew God was with me—not just because of the fact someone found me, but because when I woke up in that hospital I felt it. I felt Him with me. I thought, ‘How can you be with me? I’ve done so many terrible things. I’ve hurt everyone I’ve ever cared about. I’ve pushed you away countless times. How is it you’re still with me?’ And I felt His love for me there in that hospital bed. That’s how I know God loves me. So I’m grateful to be alive today. I still have things to learn and I’m still working on this addiction thing, but I know God’s with me. And that keeps me going.”
This man’s story gave me hope! It still does every time I recall it.
I’ve found this genuine openness and honesty in numerous ARP meetings since then and it’s powerful every time. For whatever reason, I find it more often in SA meetings. And I love it! I need it! It strengthens me and encourages me to be honest and vulnerable with myself, others, and God. In my experience, honesty breaks my cycles of acting out, and vulnerability keeps me from going back. So I try to be honest and vulnerable when I share in meetings. I get so much more out of them when I do. I’m learning to practice these principles in all relationships and areas of my life.
I want to be clear I’m not trying to encourage people to abandon ARP meetings in favor of SA ones. I plan to attend both meetings. I only want to share what’s helping me on my road to recovery. I hope someone reading this finds it helpful.