Saturday, June 5, 2010

Let’s Talk about Sex

I will begin by saying, in the tradition of public broadcast, that while this post does not contain content of a graphic nature, it does contain themes that may not be suitable for younger readers.

There is no part of our lives in recovery that we do not examine. So eventually, we need to talk about sex.

I’ve just completed my annual fourth step. This one was an AA-style inventory right out of the Big Book.

To be honest, I was a little skeptical that it would reveal anything I hadn’t already dealt with in my first fourth step, which I wrote in narrative form. But I prayed that God would reveal what needed to be revealed, took the action and waited to see what came up.

To my surprise, by putting things in a different format I saw different things. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the part of the inventory the Big Book refers to as “Sex Problems.” (Found on page 69, of course.)

Interestingly, that was the part of the Big Book we read and discussed at my last Big Book study. So it was fresh in my mind as I sat down to my task.

In the first column, I was to review my past conduct and indicate where I was selfish, dishonest or inconsiderate. Where did I unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness?

There was no new ground to tread. I had revealed every sordid event in great detail in my first fourth step. But in such a condensed form, a few things stuck out.

The first is that I have behaved very badly. No surprise there. But seeing my behavior in it’s most concentrated form was bracing.

But the real insight I gained is that most of the sex I’ve had in my life, I didn’t enjoy. Rather, I used sex as a tool. I used it to draw men into a relationship with me. I used sex to keep men in relationships and to lure them back when things got bad. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it was spectacularly unsuccessful and just left me filled with shame.

I believe my sexuality was God-given. But that gift became twisted and distorted as a result of sexual abuse at a very early age.

I did things I didn’t want to do, because I thought it would bring me love and allow me to keep it.

Of course, I was trying to fill the God-sized hole I felt with another person. When one person wasn’t enough to fill the hole, I thought more would be the answer. Or doing more or different or more exotic sex acts with the same one. Of course that only filled me with more shame and left a bigger hole.

I just kept digging a deeper, wider hole in a cycle of self-destruction that didn’t stop until I began to feel my first spiritual stirrings. That path eventually led me to Al-Anon and recovery.

I stopped behaving in self-destructive ways. I learned what a healthy relationship looked like. I’ve been blessed with a happy marriage for going on eight years.

But what I didn’t realize until now was this:

Without going into the details that have no place here, I will simply say that God, in his wisdom, took away the one weapon I had deployed in all my relationships. In my marriage, I could not use sex in this way. It simply had no power.

And I was loved and accepted anyway.

What I learned is that love and acceptance are like God’s grace. It’s not something I can earn by doing things I imagine someone else wants me to do. But if I make myself right spiritually, it is a gift that is freely given.

And for that, I thank God.


  1. Great post. Sex is where we are our most vulnerable in almost every way. So its not surprising that being healthy there is key to our spiritual and emotional wholeness elsewhere. It goes both ways though...the more healthy we become the more healthy our sexual relationships become. Its a cycle of our growth.

  2. I think that you're very brave to even address the subject. And, your comparison of grace with love is very apt.

  3. Writing about the natural part of our lives is sometimes frowned upon. You speak of sex in your post in a wholesome and productive manner. Thank you for sharing some of your own previous distortions on sex. It seems there are many many of us introduced to harmful sex at a tender age, and we have come a long way to work at being healthy as adults. You did a great job in this post.

  4. Kathy-

    I used to think that I stumbled upon your blog for a reason. Yet, the more and more I read- I think that God sent me...there was no stumbling or chance involved in finding you.

    I, too, experienced abuse as a child. Abuse that was so mild, I think, that I have a hard time remembering much details, only that something happened that I wasn't comfortable with. It was also made worse by older neighborhood kids.

    But recently I did a spiritual yoga session and there was some child exercise, which was more of a meditation, in which I thought of myself as a child and spoke to that child. No surprise, into my head popped the vulnerable four year old that had been abused, and I told her that she doesn't have to do things that are wrong to be liked.

    I don't have to do things that are wrong to be liked. Wow, had I known/believed/trusted that as a 16-20 year old, how things would be different.

    But I know, now.

    Thanks for sharing this. I could relate to it all, and I am surprised to hear someone outside of myself tell 'my' story.

  5. Great post. Even though I never had to deal with any type of sexual abuse, I did find myself going to extremes with sex thinking I would get the attention/love I wanted. Of course it never worked and always made me feel bad about myself. I am in a healthy marriage now and it feels great to know I am loved for so much more than sex.

  6. What a wonderful and brave post, Kathy. Thank you for sharing such personal aspects of your journey and what you have faced and learned. Your blog is a reassuring place to visit. A place I find validation, insight, and inspiration. This is a subject that shouldn't be avoided. Too much shame and confusion in our culture. Thank you for this.

  7. God's grace is sufficient.
    Blessings to you, my friend, for being so honest.

  8. Great Post...!! Love that you are honest...

    hee-hee.. in the Al-anon revised Blueprint for Progress (to do one's 4th step) is on page 69 too...

    I think someone had a fun sense of make it on page 69 in all the different literature...

    (and to add a sense of humor.. 69 is my least favorite thing about sex.. can't concentrate on two things at the same take turns being the Queen and being waited on; and then giving back.. !!

    Seriously thanks for a candid post.

    Sex to me cause problems in a different way. I felt when I had sex with someone I really had to then try to make the relationship work out... now I know that is not the case.

    I recently had a one month relationship and did sleep together too fast; it was great.. but after a month; I know this man was not right for me. I wish he was.. but he was not.. and I did not beat myself up feeling guilty that I slept with him. I knew it was not going to work out in the long run; so better to end it immediately.

    Betty Ann

  9. Kathy,
    i think i might be the only dude commenting so far, but regardless...wonderful candid post...on what i believe is a sacred matter.

    it's painful that many of us (myself included) have trivialized or misused such an intimate/vulnerable thing....always coming away with feelings like shame, emptiness, trying to force things to work, manipulation or being manipulated....

    i truly believe that only by being honest with ourselves, accepting forgiveness and giving it, and 'turning it over' to our higher power can we grow in wholeness with this most intimate subject...

    'good on you' for sharing in this way with honesty and grace...

  10. I have done the same things you write about here. I have used sex to fill a void within. It doesn't work for the long-term. There has to be something else of much more substance within. I'm glad that I have come to realize that no one else can make me feel whole. I have to do that with the help of my HP. Great post Kathy.