Because sex and love addiction are not as widely understood as drug and alcohol addiction, there are still a great deal of stigmas and misinformation surrounding these two very serious behavioral disorders. If you hear an attractive younger man explain his personal battle with sex addiction, for example, you might inwardly roll your eyes and think, “Really? You’re going to try to play off your womanizing tendencies as a diagnosable disease? Cut me a break.” If you spend two hours on the phone with a hysterical girlfriend who is questioning her worth and will to live because she hasn’t gotten a text back from a romantic interest, you might be inclined to say, “Girl, you need to get it together. No man is worth this amount of drama.” In reality, she might be struggling with a budding love addiction, finding it impossible to separate the reality of the situation from the messaging ingrained into her mind during childhood — “Attention equals love, and love equals worthiness.” If you or someone close to you has been struggling to maintain healthy relationships or has been engaging in sexual behaviors compulsively, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) might be an effective treatment option. Since its inception in the 1970s, the 12 Step program has helped thousands of individuals work towards a healthy relationship with sex and love. Contact 12 Step Illinois to learn more about SLAA meetings in your immediate area.
What is SLAA?
The official SLAA website reads, “Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, or SLAA, is a program for anyone who suffers from an addictive compulsion to engage in or avoid sex, love, or emotional attachment. We use the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous to recover from these compulsions. We are united in a common focus: dealing with our addictive sexual and emotional behavior. We find a common denominator in our obsessive/compulsive patterns, which transcends any personal differences of sexual orientation or gender identity. The following behaviors have been experienced by members.
- 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 (excerpts from the Twelve Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction).
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. As is the case with any 12 Step fellowship, you can join any time you want to by attending a meeting in your area. You can also walk away if you believe SLAA is not a good fit for you without having to explain yourself to anyone or ask for permission. Joining 12 Step programs is simple — you simply continue to show up.
History of SLAA
SLAA was first founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1976 by an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He had been active in AA for many years and had successfully gotten his drinking problem under control as a direct result. However, he still acted out in sexual ways, engaging in multiple affairs and continuing to be unfaithful to his wife. He thought, “I wonder if there is a way to apply the 12 Steps to other areas of unmanageability or compulsion.” Thus, SLAA was born, and has been helping individuals overcome sexual and love addictions ever since.
What is Sex and Love Addiction?
What exactly is sex and love addiction? Falling in love and being physically intimate with a partner are two beautiful, normal components of the human experience. For most people, these behaviors don’t cause any problems outside of the expected and occasional heartbreak. For others, however, engaging in sex and seeking love becomes both compulsive and detrimental. You might be struggling with sex and/or love addiction if one or both of these behaviors feels out of control, and if you have started experiencing consequences that are inextricably linked.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addicts differ from love addicts in that they are more attached to sexual encounters and specific sex acts than people. Some of the diagnostic criteria for sex addiction include:
- A preoccupation with sexual behaviors.
- An ample amount of time spent preparing to engage in sexual behaviors.
- A need to increase the frequency, intensity, number, or risk level of behaviors to achieve the desired effect (similar to “building a tolerance” in alcoholism and drug addiction).
- A disproportionate amount of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences.
- Experiencing restlessness, emotional distress, or anxiety if unable to engage in the sexual behavior for a prolonged amount of time.
What is Love Addiction?
An article published by the National Library of Medicine states, “Love can be thrilling, but it can also be perilous. When our feelings are returned, we might feel euphoric. Other times, love’s pull is so strong that we might follow it even to the point of hardship or personal ruin. Lovers can become distracted, unreliable, unreasonable, or even unfaithful. In the worst case, they can become deadly. In 2011, over 10% of murders in the United States were committed by the victim’s lover. When relationships come to an unwanted end, we feel pain, grief, and loss. We may even become depressed, or withdrawn from society. These phenomena—including cycles of alternating ecstasy and despair, desperate longing, and the extreme and sometimes damaging thoughts and behaviors that can follow from love’s loss—bear a resemblance to analogous phenomena associated with more “conventional” addictions like those for drugs, alcohol, or gambling.”
Those who are addicted to love might find it extremely difficult to walk away from a toxic relationship, even though they know the dynamics of the relationship are injurious. They might feel a “high” from pursuing romance or fantasizing, and they might utilize romantic relationships as a way to distract themselves. They might feel anxious and restless when apart from their partner, and they might find it extremely difficult to function when they are not actively engaged in a romantic relationship of some kind.
If you or someone close to you has been struggling with a sex or love addiction or with a substance use disorder of any kind, the very first step on the road to recovery is admitting that help has become necessary. At 12 Step Illinois we understand how difficult it can be to pick up the phone and reach out for assistance, especially when you aren’t sure what your next steps are going to be. As soon as you contact us you will be connected with a compassionate and experienced advisor who will help walk you through the remainder of the process, step-by-step. First, it is important to determine which treatment option will best meet your unique clinical needs or the clinical needs of your loved one. In some instances involvement in a 12 Step program will be a viable stand-alone treatment option. If this is the case, we will help connect you with 12 Step meetings and additional resources in your immediate area. If we believe that some degree of professional intervention is necessary, we will connect you with a medical detoxification center or inpatient treatment center in Illinois. If you or your loved one has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time, medical detox is likely an important first step. The symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening when not closely monitored by a team of licensed medical professionals. If you have underlying mental health concerns or co-occurring disorders, entering into an inpatient treatment center following detox might come recommended. We will help you determine the best course of action to take. All you need to do to begin is pick up the phone or contact us directly through our website. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you get started on your personal journey of addiction recovery.