'My name’s Katy, I’m a sex addict'
I WAS terrified and ashamed. I felt sick. Was I really driving to my first Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting?
This was ridiculous, laughable even. I wasn't some lecherous sex starved monster, I wasn't a prostitute, I just had a few issues around love. Who didn't?
I must have sat outside that school hall for half an hour willing myself to go in. How ironic, a sex addicts meeting in a school, surely that's not PC? My judgmental and inexperienced mind had a lot to learn about this addiction. And sh*t did I learn quickly.
How did it come to this?
I stumbled upon Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), by accident after another humiliating attempt to turn a one-night stand into a full-blown Hollywood love story. When would I learn that stalking, obsessive messaging and even jetting to another country to get the guy, was more psychological thriller (or horror) than fluffy rom-com.
This was my normal storyline though. I chased uncommitted guys, I got sidetracked by married men and I used sex to lure anyone in, in the hope they would fall desperately in love with me; when all I really wanted was that closeness with someone, anyone.
The obsession and addiction was crippling. I'd be glued to my phone, be physically ill when ignored and increasingly anxious and manipulating in my behaviours.
Arriving at ER one day after suffering a panic attack due to an unanswered text message, I knew something wasn't right.
I went to the library to find information on what on earth was going on with me. As if by divine intervention a book fell off the bookshelf.
Are you a love addict?
My silent tearful yes now had me sitting in that car questioning my entire life.
Shaking, I finally walked up the stairs to the meeting room. I took my seat in a circle of people, my head bowed in shame. What were people thinking about me? Were they wondering what awful secrets I had? Was I the worst case of addiction they'd ever seen?
And then I listened.
I lifted my head up and my heart opened with sunshine and hope. These people were not perverts and sex starved weirdos, they were suffering humans, finding solace and support in each other. They were uni students, family men, mothers, bankers, actors and girls like me. I was floored.
Every story I heard, resonated with me. I saw myself and my pain in every word. I wasn't alone.
I had found my people.
Hi, my name is Katy and I'm a sex addict
At the second meeting, I found the courage to speak. Although it wasn't expected of me so soon, I felt the need to speak as though my life depended on it.
I started with the cringe-worthy, "Hi my name's Katy and I'm a love and sex addict,"
It felt like I was speaking a foreign language. I couldn't quite grasp the fact I could be suffering with this affliction. I think it's called denial.
After getting over my bizarre introduction to a group of strangers, pain, embarrassment and raw truths poured out of me. And with the words came the tears. I remember a man quietly bringing me a box of tissues and placing them at my feet. No one interrupted, I cried in silence for an eternity.
It was a confronting moment.
I was hooked
I wanted to run as soon as the group ended but as I edged quietly towards the door, people came up and welcomed and thanked me. They told me I was brave. They gave me their phone numbers. The support was overwhelming. Something monumental happened in that circle of strangers and the next night I was back.
There are many different types of meetings in SLAA, from the more intimate ones, to bigger ones based on the 12 steps to women-only groups.
I tried them all for a few months until I found my "home" group, the group I felt safest at. It was then I felt ready to start taking the program to the next level - finding a sponsor and starting the Steps.
Going cold turkey
It intense. There was written work and calls to my sponsor most nights, not to mention meetings and recommended calls to others to check in. The steps themselves were emotionally gruelling, some taking months to finish. There was no escaping any inner demon hiding out in the depths of my body.
The toughest part of recovery was the initial period of "sobriety". This was a four-week period where I had to strictly refrain from addictive behaviours that my sponsor and I had identified as unhealthy.
One was no conversation with any male due to my propensity to flirt. I didn't quite endorse that one. What about my male friends? The barista at my local coffee shop? Was I supposed to ignore every single man? Pretty much, yes.
My sponsor made me see how much emphasis I placed on validation from men. Their validation equalled my self-worth and we were aiming to strip all of that away.
It was hard. I told male friends I was going off the radar for a month and I stopped going out, so I didn't break another "rule" which was to stop immediately scanning rooms for guys.
It was the loneliest month I've experienced
I fell into a deep depression and I started thinking about self-harm, which I hadn't done for years. All my emotions bubbled to the surface and I realised how this addiction had occupied so much of my time that I didn't know who I was without it. I was in withdrawal.
I came out of that period like a butterfly out of its cocoon. I'd been to the utter depths of isolation and despair and now I felt refreshed and revitalised, with a whole new perspective.
Falling off the wagon
Over two years I went to three or four meetings a week. I worked hard, I fell down, I got back up and I kept working. My old patterns of behaviour were slowly melting away and people were noticing a stronger me.
It felt bloody good to be present with my friends and family, to feel proud of all the work I'd done and the achievements I'd made.
I'll always struggle with my love addiction. Just like an alcoholic or a drug addict, you are never truly free from your vice.
It will come knocking again at some point, to tempt you with that high and to remind you of the bond you once had but the key is not opening the door. To spiral back into that hell is not an option for me.
Love and sex addiction is not a joke
It's real, it's dangerous and it affects many seemingly "together" people. I'd love to see it and options for recovery taken more seriously because mental and emotional health should be on the top of everyone's priority list.
SLAA literally saved my life.
Those people in those rooms saved my life.
I saved my life because I took it seriously.
In an emergency please call 000
If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the 24-hour Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the beyondblue Support Service - 1300 22 46 36 or via beyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat (3pm-12am AEST) or email response.
This article originally appeared on WHIMN and has been republished with permission.