In the SA 1st step, we admit powerlessness over lust (not a particular behavior), and the requirement for membership is a desire to “stop lusting and become sexually sober”. Both are in view with the understanding that lust lies beneath the acting out behaviors. I am like the alcoholic in many ways, but there is a significant difference in that I carry my distillery with me everywhere I go in the form of lust. I can be technically, physically sober but really a long way from sobriety because I’ve been indulging in lust, stealing glances, euphoric recall, becoming emotionally entangled, entertaining illusions of grandeur and desirability, fantasizing while having sex with my wife, looking at pornography, etc. For the alcoholic, the first drink is literally a first alcoholic drink, and that actual first drink starts the craving the Big Book speaks of. I believe for the sexaholic, normally that first drink is a lust hit, it’s taking that image or thought and rather than letting it pass on, starting to play with it and indulge it. Lust starts the craving in the sexaholic.
So, there is a significant difference between the sexaholic and alcoholic: the source of the first drink. For the alcoholic it is external: the bottle. For the sexaholic it is internal: lust. To illustrate the difference imagine the following situation: resentment is being nursed by an alcoholic and by a sexaholic causing the mental obsession in both. Resentment, or whatever, causes them both to be “restless, irritable and discontented” and so they both seek that first drink that brings “ease and comfort”.
The difference between the alcoholic and the sexaholic however is that the alcoholic at this point has to find a bottle. If he is in a business meeting, he might have to wait all day to get that first drink, find comfort, and thus break his sobriety. The resentful sexaholic, sitting in the same meeting, needs only to take a sideways glance to find his bottle, or if no fitting object is present, he just recalls his favorite fantasy and is off. He has taken his first drink, has found his comfort, the craving is initiated, and he is on his way to a roaring drunk while his unfortunate alcoholic colleague is there still stewing in his resentment because his drug is far off. The sexaholic may have to wait to physically act out, but that’s just the conclusion of what’s already going on in his head. And if he lives in this acting-in state, he’s really just trying to “control and enjoy” his drinking. But living like this is living in a drunken, sorry state and will lead to disaster.
Addicts have an allergy. They have some drug that is absolutely toxic to their system. For the alcoholic it is alcohol. The White Book pegs lust as our toxic substance: “For the sexaholic, lust is toxic. This is why in recovery, the real problem is spiritual and not merely physical. This is why change of attitude is so crucial.” (p. 41) Therefore, if I am to recover, if I am to have the abundant life promised in our literature, I must be just as intent on being purged of my lust as I am on being purged of my problematic sexual behavior.
Winter 2015 Essay Newsletter, © Sexaholics Anonymous 2015