Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (more commonly known as "S.L.A.A." or just "SLAA") is a 12-Step program of recovery from sex and/or love addiction.
SLAA was started in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1976 by members of Alcoholics Anonymous who discovered that they had problems with sex and love that they could not freely discuss in AA meetings, so a new 12-Step program of recovery was born. Since then many SLAA members have discovered that other addictions were not the cause of their sexual acting-out or acting-in but was, rather, an effect of those behaviors. Sex and love addiction for many was their fundamental addiction.
The only qualification for S.L.A.A. membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. S.L.A.A. is supported entirely through the contributions of its membership, and is free to all who need it.
Sex and love addictionEdit
subhrajit believes that sex and love addiction is an illness which cannot be cured but can be arrested. As a program, His further believes that this illness of sex and love addiction is progressive, much like chemical addictions, the acting-out behaviors which used to satisfy a sex and love addict become insufficient. The addict then begins to crave, seek, and eventually find more intense sex and/or romance. That too becomes an insufficient hit so that the addict then seeks more intensity. It is a self-destructive cycle.
His further believes that sex and love addiction, if left untreated
- will ultimately result in insanity, death, or a worsening cycle of self-destructive acting out or acting-in behaviors;
- that on the way to that ultimate end the untreated sex and love addict can experience humiliation, divorce, loss of job and home, destitution, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, imprisonment, and diseases both disfiguring and deadly;
- and that the untreated sex and love addict can cause considerable destruction to and even the death of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers.
There are a variety of ways sex and love addicts tend to act out. These include but are certainly not limited to: prostitution, anonymous affairs, multiple affairs, compulsive masturbation or use of pornography. Acting out can also include loving multiple partners, either at the same time, or serially, one after another. It can also include being involved in long-distance affair and love romances, such as internet. The various forms can include love fantasy (gothic romance) or the use of intrigue and innuendo and other flirting behavior as a means of feelign more powerful and/or hiding from one's true feelings.
There are a variety of ways sex and love addicts act in. These behaviors usually are solitary. Although acting-in behaviors can be destructive to family, self respect and career like acting-out, they are often harder to see.
Acting in behaviors include obsessive computer pornography or anorexia regarding relationships and self. As part of some addictive patterns, anorexia may follow periods of acting-out.
When S.L.A.A. members refer to "love addiction" they are generally talking about something which might be more accurately called "romantic intrigue" or "extreme emotional dependency". Many S.L.A.A. members believe that real, healthy love is a very different and much better state of being than the desperately clinging, emotional dependency. Often this form of dependency brings people to S.L.A.A. meetings.
S.L.A.A. believes that in many cases sexual acting-out is tightly bound to this dependent pseudo-love; and that love addicts are often attracted to sex addicts with mutually destructive results. Within S.L.A.A. love addiction can be as malignant as sex addiction. Extreme emotional dependency can drive both men and women to controlling and even violently jealous criminal behavior. Recovering love addicts often say that they did not have "relationships" but, rather, that they "took hostages".
Because of these observations, S.L.A.A. aims to address both sex and love addiction. This is one of the factors which differentiates S.L.A.A. from other sexual addiction fellowships which tend to be more focused on the sexual addiction alone.
SLAA acknowledges its roots in AAEdit
Alcoholics Anonymous (more commonly known as "A.A." or just "AA") has generously made their entire "Big Book" available online. Chapter 5 of the AA Big Book, "How It Works", is the original explanation of the 12-Step program of recovery. SLAA proudly acknowledges its heritage. But other than structure and adherence to steps and traditions, there are substantial differences between the SLAA and AA programs of recovery.
The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of SLAA were borrowed with permission from the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous and needed to be adapted only slightly for SLAA. The obvious changes were made from "alcohol" to "sex and love addiction" in Step 1 and "alcoholics" to "sex and love addicts" in Step 12. The word "Him" was changed to "God" in Steps 3, 7, and 11 to be more gender-neutral and to make the non-religious intent more clear. The phrase "in all our affairs" in Step 12 was changed to "in all areas of our lives" for obvious reasons. The structure of the program of recovery laid out for SLAA members is nearly identical to that of AA.
However, unlike the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which works to help its members stop drinking completely and permanently, the SLAA program of recovery is not about stopping all sexual and romantic behaviors forever. While individuals can get along without sex indefinitely, SLAA members have learned that permanent cessation of all sexual activity, sometimes called sexual anorexia, is not healthy. Normality is living a life with healthy and sober sexual and loving relationships.
Accordingly, SLAA's indirect goal is to help its members have non-addictive, sane, and healthy sex and love in their lives. In this sense, SLAA is more like other 12-Step behavior addiction programs. SLAA members must also ultimately learn to be in healthy, sober, intimate partnerships while pursuing sober non-addictive behaviors and healthy sober relationships.
SLAA differs from AA in another major respect as well. Sex and love are such highly individual aspects of every human being that there is no fixed "Bottom Line". Members of AA have a fixed Bottom Line which is, simply, "Don't Drink". The Bottom Line, which is in reality a boundary is "self-defined", but is preferably set up with the help of a sponsor, another member of the fellowship who has been abstinent on his/her Bottom Line behaviors for some time and understands the process and pitfalls of recovery in SLAA.
Having individual Bottom Lines makes sense in SLAA because, for example, particular sexual and emotional practices which are harmless for one SLAA member can be quite destructive to another. Masturbation is a common bottom-line behavior that is included along with other problem behaviors. For some sex and love addicts masturbation is a truly harmless, risk-free release of built-up sexual tension. However, a fair number of sex and love addicts cannot separate the masturbation from the fantasy of sexual behavior, and it leads them into the slide of shame, desperation and anxiety. Like one member said, it is like a bad case of atheletes foot, the more you scratch, the more it itches, and masturbation is scratching the itch. These people need to include this in their bottom-line. Other's may include one-night stands, no-strings attached (NSA) involvement, affairs, paid-for sex, and internet sex, porn, cyber-sex, can also be included as technology is changing.
Bottom Line items are also not necessarily permanent. Since SLAA's indirect aim is to encourage non-addictive sex and love, its members must be able to take certain items off their Bottom Lines as their recovery progresses. A common example of this is dating. Many members come into SLAA suffering from rapid-fire "serial monogamy" or exhausting "multiple, simultaneous relationships". Such people need time off from dating while starting recovery and stabilizing their lives, so dating becomes a Bottom Line item for them. Dating will, after some time, be taken off their Bottom Lines. This is done after sanity checks with a sponsor, other abstinent members of SLAA, and perhaps a therapist. Removing items from an SLAA member's Bottom Line without a plan in recovery is a weakness with the self-defined Bottom Line concept. Most addicts, however, use "getting current" time in meetings to share openly with others their daily challenges to individual sobriety.
SLAA members need the ability to add behaviors to their Bottom Lines. Sexual and emotional acting-out can take many forms. Sometimes it is not always clear that a particular behavior might even be a problem for a given individual. Clarity comes with time. Working with a sponsor helps center addicts. Many SLAA members do add behaviors to their Bottom Lines over time. SLAA somewhat differs from the other twelve-step sexual programs in that SLAA has no specific guidelines or behaviors for their members. Each member chooses what behaviors are problematic for them, and as they set boundaries for these behaviors, they establish their bottom-line behaviors that they start choosing not to behave in. Although it is not an established part of the SLAA program, some members might also include "top-line" behaviors, which are more positive behaviors, such as exercise, dieting, meditation, therapy, quiet time alone, music, creativity, or other behaviors that are positivelly nurturing, and are designed to help the addict refrain from their bottom-line behaviors.
40 Questions for self diagnosisEdit
Again because of the highly varied nature of sex and love addiction and the wide variety of effects it has, it can be confusing as to whether or not a given individual has this disease.
Many people have found the SLAA pamphlet "40 Questions for Self Diagnosis" to be of help with this question, whether they became SLAA members or not, or even if seeking help for another person. An on-line version of that pamphlet is available here. The pamphlet is a collection of some of the more common and/or revealing ways of acting out and the effects thereof gathered from much painful experience.
SLAA is NOT a dating service or a place to find acting-out partners. Occasionally people wander in who have such goals in mind, but they are not tolerated. This behavior, beyond the bounds of 12 steps for sobriety and sanity is often called "13th stepping." (this term is not an official 12-step term, but originated in the other 12-step programs, like AA, in which old-timer members would hit up on new members, often called the 13th step, in part, due to that it is unlucky for both and can lead to relapse). Some groups will read a statement (paraphrased) that although attractions may occur, it should not be followed up on.
Pillars of recoveryEdit
There are five pillars of recovery from Sex and Love addiction
The ability to keep sober behavior and to stop acting out on a bottom line. Sobriety is defined as keeping away from behavior on an individual bottom line, one day at a time. Sobriety gives us back our lives.
The attendance at meetings on a regular basis, perhaps ninety meetings in ninety days as a newcomer is suggested. A sponsor is one who has worked the 12 Steps and who acts as a guide on a one to one basis for the sponsee. The use of a sponsor to stay honest and sober is very important to continuing sobriety from this addiction. Sponsorship keeps us honest.
Steps and traditionsEdit
The practice and use of the steps in everyday life helps the addict to realize that they are an essential part of life and well being. The steps are designed to help the addict become sober. The use of a moral inventory helps us find where we stand within the steps and traditions. The traditions help the addict in everyday dealings with the world. The combination allows the addict to live a sane and sober life within the community. The steps help keep us sober.
As the addict recovers, it is important to give back that which was so freely given, the ability to recover in a safe and sober manner. To allow the next newcomer the same advantages he or she received, the recovering addict will take the lessons of the steps and traditions and apply them to service to the group, the intergroup and the fellowship as a whole. Service keeps us clean.
Essential to becoming well is the realization that all our sobriety flows from a power greater than ourselves, sometimes called Higher Power, sometimes God, sometimes just a 'power greater than ourselves'. By letting go and allowing this power into our lives, we can give up the addictive behaviors and return to sanity. Spirituality keeps us sane.
COSLAA: help for family and friends of sex and love addictsEdit
There is a group for those who are not sex addicts but whose lives as friends, family or significant others have been affected by the addict. This program called is COSLAA. Please note that COSLAA does NOT accept sexual addicts to its meetings, only those who are affected by, live with or are relatives or friends of the sexual addict.
The consequences of sexual acting out affect not only significant others but family and friends, often co-workers of the sex addict. COSLAA is a program which addresses those needs.
COSLAA and co-addictive behaviorsEdit
Although there are certain dependent behaviors though which partners of addicts may find themselves attracted to or attached to a sex addict, often it is through no fault of their own that they are in relationship to the addict. COSLAA programs, allow those in relationship to, but not engaging in sexual addictive behaviors, to get current, that is to discuss how the behaviors of the addicts they are living with have affected their lives without other addicts being present.
Shame and blameEdit
COSLAA is not a place to shame nor blame the addict for his or her behavior. It is a place to find sanity, recovery, fellowship, and support in living with or adjacent to a sex and love addict. It is frequently a forum to find personal strength, stop looking into the moral inventory of others and take responsibility for his or her portion of the relationship. Often relationships are strengthened through the dual recovery of the addict and partner.
Meetings are one of the primary forms of Sex and Love Addicts therapy. Within the meetings the addict can find a safe place to talk about this addiction, find help with boundary problems, and set bottom lines. Part of that safety is anonymity. All regular meetings are closed to the public.
Newcomers are encouraged to attend at least six meetings before deciding whether or not SLAA program of recovery is right for them. For most newcomers, finding others who have recovered and who continue to share with others, draw sustenance and strength from the program is an important beginning step toward recovery. "Each day we are sober is another day of sanity".
Some sex and love addicts report that they became addicts as a result of early abuse. They were victims of incest and other sexual abuse when they were young. SLAA is therefore often and openly used by sex and/or love addicts for recovery from these issues too.
There are meetings held online. There are specific rules and regulations governing conduct at these meetings. Some people find it difficult to attend online meetings because of their acting out patterns. Others find it helps them when they cannot get to a live meeting.
Often after a slip or loss of sobriety, a member may be asked to do a 90 and 90; 90 meetings in 90 days. For many this means attending more than one location. This rigor of attending 90 meetings is meant to reinforce the strengths of the programs, the sustenance of members and the value of reaching out for help to others in the program.
Broad scope of SLAAEdit
SLAA has a broad scope of membership. It recognizes that "differences of gender or sexual orientation" do not include nor exclude anyone from the disease of sex and love addiction. It is an "equal opportunity destroyer". SLAA welcomes all without regard to orientation. SLAA is not a religious organization. Atheists, agnostics, and adherents of all religions are always welcomed.
Some sex and love addicts have difficulty with emotional attachments. They are anorexic with regard to their sexual behaviors. SLAA is open to these addicts as well. Anorexic behavior is only the other side of the coin. Some sex and love addicts have difficulties with forming relationships. Often they have left behind them a trail of failed marriages or unsuccessful and unfulfilling relationships. SLAA is open to help these addicts too with addressing their anorectic behaviors and issues.
Local S.L.A.A. Sites (USA):
- Connecticut Intergroup S.L.A.A. web site
- Memphis, Tennessee S.L.A.A. web site
- New York Intergroup S.L.A.A. web site
- Seattle, Washington Intergroup S.L.A.A. web site
International S.L.A.A. Sites:
- 12 Steps and 12 Traditions
- Sex and Love Addiction Boundaries
- Sexual Anorexia Treatment Information
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