Some of us have experienced the avoidance of sex as addictive, in some cases choosing to identify as “sexual anorexics”…afraid of sex because of its association in our minds with our addiction or with past sexual trauma, or because of a fear of intimacy and vulnerability. Trying to control our sexuality in this way is just another symptom of our disease. The solution lies in turning our will and lives over to the care of our Higher Power.
Welcome to the Intimacy and Sexual Avoidance (ISA)
meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous!
Individuals from many different countries participate in the ISA-focused telemeetings and video meetings video conference meetings, ranging from SAA members who have long-term sobriety to newcomers. Some have worked the Twelve Steps of SAA in order to stop acting out sexually, and are now examining the role of intimacy avoidance in their lives. Others have
been drawn to this fellowship specifically because of the ISA-focused meetings. Still others have a spouse or partner whom
they suspect struggles with intimacy issues and want to learn more by attending the open ISA meetings. Whatever brings you here, welcome!
and Sexual Avoidance Terminology
Here is a brief explanation of some words and phrases
which are commonly used in talking about intimacy and sexual avoidance.
Intimacy avoidance: preventing or sabotaging closeness and connection with self or others
anorexia: starving oneself of
sexual nurturing and affection as a means of control
Compulsive sexual avoidance: an obsessive state in which the avoidance of sex dominates one’s life. Often “sexual anorexia” and “compulsive sexual avoidance” are used interchangeably.
ISA Awareness Committee (ISAAC): The purpose of the Intimacy and Sexual Avoidance Awareness Committee is to raise awareness of intimacy and sexual avoidance (anorexia) and to carry the message of recovery to those who wish to work the Steps using this awareness.
you are familiar with Twelve-Step programs but new to SAA:
Unlike programs for recovering alcoholics or drug addicts, Sex Addicts Anonymous does not have a universal definition of abstinence. Since different addicts suffer from different behaviors, and since our sexuality is experienced in so many different ways, it is necessary that SAA members define for themselves, with the help of their sponsors or others in recovery, which of their sexual behaviors they consider to be “acting out” (excerpted from Sex Addicts Anonymous, pages 14-15).
In addition to abstaining from acting-out behaviors, recovery for some of us includes recognizing and abstaining from “acting in.” “‘Intimacy avoidance’ refers to conduct and attitudes that serve to avoid or block sexual, emotional, or spiritual connection with others, ourselves, or our Higher Power. Many sex addicts compulsively avoid their feelings or have difficulty being emotionally vulnerable with others. When this intimacy avoidance becomes focused on avoiding anything to do with sex, it’s sometimes called, ‘acting in'” (“Intimacy Avoidance – Another Aspect of Sex Addiction”).
If you suffer from addictive sexual behaviors as well as the compulsive avoidance of vulnerability, closeness, and connection with others, you may benefit from attending as many SAA meetings as possible at first. Many people try to attend ninety meetings in ninety days when they’re new, or if they’ve just relapsed. Even if you live in an area in which there are many local in-person meetings, it is challenging to attend that many meetings, but it is easier to accomplish by including telemeetings in your program. Hearing people talk about the solution found in the Twelve Steps of SAA and beginning to connect with other members is an important part of recovery.
Different telemeetings focus on different aspects of SAA
recovery. For example, in addition to
the intimacy and sexual avoidance-focused meetings, there are meetings which
use “outside literature” including the AA Big Book, meetings for
agnostics, gender-specific meetings, etc.
Many telemeetings are registered with the Telemeeting Intergroup.
● If you’ve already worked the Twelve Steps of SAA to recover from acting out…
You might be ready to look at the role of intimacy avoidance in your life. Your previous step work may have built a foundation for you. With an understanding of the principles and traditions of SAA, you can begin learning how to apply them to healing from acting in.
Unlike working the Steps on sexual acting out or other addictions which require immediate action, however, working the Steps on acting in or anorexia has been a much slower process for many of us. Intimacy avoidance can be challenging to understand and difficult to spot. Like looking for a white object on a white background, avoidance can be masked by – or can masquerade as – other issues – even seeming to be recovery! As we learned more about it, many of us discovered that our intimacy avoidance affected more areas of our lives than we’d realized, and that it is at the root of a number of addictive behaviors.
Sometimes it takes some time before a person feels ready to actually work the Steps with this focus. Recovery from intimacy avoidance has been described by some as “demanding, life-changing work,” and success is usually based on a person’s readiness to put in the time and effort to undergo this transformation. Some ways to prepare to work the Steps are: 1) listen in meetings and share your own thoughts and feelings, 2) ask questions during fellowship, 3) get connected with other members who are on this same journey, and 4) read the literature mentioned later in this email.
Again, welcome! Please feel free to if there’s anything we can do to help you.
– Intimacy and
Sexual Avoidance Newcomer Information (excerpted from the document the SAA
Literature Committee approved on November 8, 2020)