A Lesbian in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous

 
 

Given my track record of stumbling through my own sexuality, it’s no surprise that I landed myself in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, not so anonymously, at the tender age of 24. The most ironic part is that I was actually a virgin. Before trying to do that math, realize that while sex addiction is most notoriously known as a second season character development, the explanation of why Usher cheated on Chili and what sky-rocketed David Duchovny to bad boy status, it is also something that happens to real people, beyond the scope of marketing, cover-ups and ratings boosts. In real life, it also goes hand-in-hand with love addiction, or rather, the human behavior in which people become addicted to the feeling of being in love. It’s being in love with love and, back in those days, while filling file folders of research on a-sexuality while telling people I was simply “not a sexual person,” I found myself completely naïve to the power of first love. It became impossible for me to function outside of the realm of the first person that helped me realize I was gay.

As most of my emotionally traumatic stories go, this one started with a crush and some mild Myspace stalking. One could also blame my ignorance and insecurity, being raised in a community where gay wasn’t actually a thing you could be. I was so far removed from my own feelings that I considered being nonsexual before realizing that women were also an option. Don’t get me wrong — as my mom has pointed out, I loved NSync more than any 16-year-old girl should have. But then again, a fascination with a group of prepubescent boys rocking FUBU and dancing in unison is a cocktail away from a drag king show.

So there I was, a directionless millennial with a sexual preference that blasted my uncertainty on Myspace: NOT SURE. I was a sex-less episode of Girls with a pink Mohawk and an undefined crush on my female coworker. While most of my crushes throughout my youth were on boys, I had had a few crushes on girls; a camp counselor named Borris the summer before high school, my kickboxing instructor and the entirety of my aunt’s softball team, but this one was different. She was the first to call out my raging insecurity, pointing out my vague sexual preferences, in the form of teasing, flirting and toying with my emotions.

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The problem with first falling for someone who spoke fluent manipulation was that my first feelings of sexual attraction were met with further ambiguity. Instead of taking my time to evolve with something that for the first time felt right, I let those feelings be controlled by someone else. Addiction also comes in pairs, and I used alcohol to numb whatever new feelings cropped up. The more I was strung along, the more I compromised myself for what I thought was love. After months of flirting at work, kissing in dark corners of bars and drinking enough that I needed my friends to cart my sorry and wickedly upset and immobile body home at night, I’d pass out in bars, cry myself to sleep and wake up to do it all over again.

This went on for two years, and after one such occasion, I woke up with the hangover comparable to a ton of bricks. I called my mom from the fetal position on the bathroom floor because I didn’t know where else to turn with that much heartache. From the bathmat, I came out to my mother.

The causes of love addiction are fairly easy to identify. Just short of blaming childhood, my upbringing was full of inconsistent nurturing. I had low self esteem and a lack of positive committed relationships role models which led to a misguided fascination with perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings. While embarking on my Love Actually-a-day regimen during the month of December, my roommate noted that it was no wonder I had unrealistic expectations of love.

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Unfortunately, knowing why you do it isn’t much help. I was underemployed, just out of college and struggling to find any sort of foothold in existing. All I had was my intrusive thinking and my strict diet of vodka.

My therapist suggested SLAA meetings, the irony of my tattoo reading “the only abnormality is the incapacity to love” not being lost on me. Finding an all-women meeting geared more towards the LAA, I found it to be a 12-step program adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous for anyone who suffered from an addictive compulsion to engage in or avoid sex, love, or emotional attachment. According to The Twelve Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction, common behaviors include:

  • Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.
  • Fearing abandonment and loneliness , we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships.
  • We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity and/or the need to rescue or be rescued.
  • We sexualize stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy.
  • To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement.

To the general public, the list probably sounds eerily similar to dating, but at the time I was willing to give anything a shot. At meetings, I was surrounded by a group of mostly straight, middle aged women who told stories of ruining their committed relationships and careers, taking wild chances on men they’d met online. They were cheating on husbands with coworkers, and being emotionally unfaithful to partners.

As the weeks went on, meetings became a game of one of these things is not like the others. That was until another lesbian showed up. Although much further along in the program, her story was the most similar to mine and I knew immediately that I needed her as a sponsor, even if the very reason was what could be described as an infatuation. Leave it to me to have a crush on my sponsor.

Once she accepted, I went to meetings, opened up about my experience and wrote my “sexual inventory.” My sponsor led me through the first few steps but after awhile, I realized I was just going through the motions. I felt that these women actually had something to lose. My sponsor was in a long-term relationship with someone she had repeatedly cheated on, and was in recovery. I didn’t have anything to lose, or so I thought, and when the structure of the process started to cramp my style, and I realized that my crush on my sponsor was wildly inappropriate, I stopped.

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At last year’s Pride parade, I found myself unknowingly standing next to my sponsor with her now wife and two children. Times have changed and apparently the Universe has a cruel sense of humor. I can’t say that SLAA was for me, but I do know that Love Addiction is very real, and a much more common affliction than we’re aware of. If you’ve made it through Morello’s story arc in Season 2 of Orange is the New Black, you understand.

Although my time in the program was brief and misguided by the very issue that landed me there in the first place, my even having embarked on the meetings was a enough set me on a more transpicuous path, even if I refuse to compromise my love of romantic comedies.

 
 

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