Q&A Time: What if I Refuse to Say I’m An Addict at a 12-Step Meeting?

QUESTION: I’m 19 years old. I feel like I’m too young to call myself a porn addict and I don’t want to go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings because they make you say it there. I’m not sure 12-step groups are even for me. What should I do instead?

ANSWER:  I had an AA sponsor in the brief time I was in Palm Springs at rehab who I expressed some of the same qualms about labeling. I also had a problem with the notion that we were to define a higher power however we wanted, yet it was specifically Christian prayers said to open and close the meeting.

He gave me some great advice that I think many of the hardcore AA’ers would have got on his case for saying: “Take what you want, leave the rest at the door. As long as you’re not drinking, you’re in recovery.” I never thought I was powerless over alcohol (or pornography). I made very bad choices for a handful of reasons, but I was always the one steering the ship even if I wanted to pretend otherwise. I had the power to become an addict and I was the one who had the power to pull myself out of it. Claiming to be powerless was the opposite of what I needed to be doing.

I felt similar with Sex Addicts Anonymous. There is just too much putting words in my mouth and telling me how I feel in 12-step groups. I appreciate their structure, understanding many people need precisely that structure to succeed in recovery, but from the opening moments when I’m forced to identify as an addict publicly, there’s a dogma that – probably for the same reasons I’ve never been a fan of organized religion – I had trouble blindly subscribing to, addicted or not. It’s just not my personality. Maybe it’s not yours either.

So, I get where you’re coming from. That said, I’m guessing there is an untold amount of lies, cajoling, manipulating and deceit based in your consumption of pornography in the past. If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, that’s fantastic, but if you’re going to skip Sex Addicts Anonymous – which may be the exact thing that will help you – you’re losing out on a lot over a word.

Despite the fact I stopped going to 12-step groups, I can see the value in them and think that everybody should try them to see if they are a fit for their recovery. If you think SAA is the answer and identifying yourself as an addict is what’s holding you back, no offense, but a label is a silly reason to not seek help.

Yes, it’s powerful the first time you say the phrase, “I am an addict.” Truth is, I still shudder a little when I think of it. It’s not a label anyone wants to wear.

Whether you have a bad habit, and addiction, a compulsion, an obsession or whatever else you want to call it is far secondary to getting help to fix the issue. By virtue of writing this question to me, you are indicating there is some kind of problem happening.

A big piece of me just wants to say, “Say the word addict, and see what they have to offer.” But if you can’t say the word addict, that’s fine. I don’t think it has anything to do with age, so I’d stop using that as an excuse and figure out the real reason behind your hesitancy to use the word “addict.”

If you can’t get yourself into an SAA room, I urge you to check out the Resources here. I also urge you to consider one-on-one counseling. It is the thing that I credit to ultimately bringing me into a successful recovery.

If SAA isn’t your thing, that’s OK and all hope is not lost. Just keep pursuing recovery. You can have it if you’re committed.


If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

3 thoughts on “Q&A Time: What if I Refuse to Say I’m An Addict at a 12-Step Meeting?

  1. When my husband and I embarked on our recovery programs from his sex addiction, our therapist outlined the recovery support groups that were affiliated with his practice, as well as other options in the city which included SAA. One of the main points he said differentiated the groups was that SAA required the public statement of being a sex addict, and he wanted the men to identify as more than just an addict. In the check-ins he preferred something like “Hi, my name is _____ and I am recovering from sex addiction.” Acknowledged the problem, without the label. Similarly, in the partner’s group I participated in, it was “I am the partner of a man recovering (or not) from sex addiction.”

    I totally agree not to get hung up on words and semantics either way. Some people may need to say it, others not. Whatever. The most important thing is moving forward and dealing with the problem. Which is the porn and its effects, more than the words coming out of our mouths.

  2. I’m not a sex addict … But I am a gambling addict and alcohol addict maintaining recovery almost 12-yrs. I never sugar coat addiction or recovery.

    IF you are old enough to watch porn and it is making your life unmanageable and have no control over the cravings, urges, and triggers? YOUR AN ADDICT. And being honest and transparent will KEEP you maintaining your recovery 🙂

    I am a firm believer (and not bashing 12-step programs) that the 12-step model is not a form of treatment and if you actually read the section that Bill W. wrote about this very fact. With that said, working the 12-steps is a form and helpful guide into doing the work needed to maintain recovery.

    When I attended Gambler’s Anonymous and AA, I learned pretty quickly that those meetings were going to be my support system and being with like-minded people like me and that I was not alone nor was I the only one with a problem with gambling and alcohol.

    Since my gambling had gotten into full-blown addiction mode and after two failed suicide attempts? I needed and entered an inpatient treatment program, then after 14 days transitioned to a treatment out-patient program for 6 months. After that? I worked with a recovery and addiction specialist for a year. It is what worked for me.

    I do continue working the 12-steps and you need to keep reworking in early recovery as to look back to when you first worked them and you can see the weak areas you need more help or work with and you can also see your growth within your recovery journey.
    The last things I still do today that keeps me from becoming complacent?

    Make and Use a Relapse Prevention Plan (Life Events will and do happen)
    Journaling and Writing
    Advocacy, Supporting and Sponsoring Others

    I wish you much success within your journey of recovery.

    Catherine Townsend-Lyon, Author

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