12-Step Groups for Sex Addiction: My Experience

August 29, 2019 Amanda Richardson

As a recovering addict, I have been fortunate enough to encounter many methods of recovery, including but not limited to the 12-step group for sex addiction. I first found my way to the most common group options like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and eventually, I discovered the variety of sex addiction-related 12-step groups available. After spending plenty of time in the 12-step group world, I can honestly say that I'm abundantly grateful for the recovery work they do within the community. However, I cannot give 12-step groups all the credit in regards to my recovery experience and maintaining sobriety.

General 12-Step Group Curriculum vs Sex Addiction Curriculum

I'll be honest and say that I did not seek out the 12-step group experience in my early recovery. I didn't harbor any ill will toward the 12-step community, however, I always felt a little isolated and misunderstood by the group context as a whole. Given that my main drug-of-choice for most of my time in active addiction was pornography, I was always severely disappointed with my options (or lack thereof). Most Porn Addicts Anonymous (PAA) meetings happen in group forums online and the majority of other sex addiction-centered meetings I found catered exclusively to men.

I highly admire and respect general 12-step group curriculum and meetings, but I always felt like I needed something more. The whole point of these meetings is to connect with other individuals who suffer in the same ways that you do. So if I'm constantly struggling to find a sex or porn addiction group then I'm continually faced with the frustrating reality that so many other sex addicts experience which is that we are repeatedly told by society that we are extremely rare, highly misunderstood creatures who don't deserve to connect with people in the first place. This myth and extreme bias that is often emulated by friends, family, the media, and more is only solidified when sex addicts struggle to find their place in the 12-step community.

Other 12-step groups do exist outside of the typical AA and NA options, but I've learned from experience that they can be hard to find and difficult to access. Unfortunately, if you are seeking out specific addiction 12-step groups your options might be somewhat limited depending on the area you reside in.

For example, I live in one of the top five largest and most diverse cities in the entire country and I'm only about 15 miles outside the city limits so I can access most of the city without too much trouble. Even with the advantage of being so close to a big city, there is still a huge shortage of group options in my area, particularly for female-only groups which are a massive priority for me as a recovering sex-addict.

Sex Addiction 12-Step Group Options

So we've discussed some of the common 12-step groups, now let's dive into some specific groups that I've been most intrigued by as a recovering sex addict. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) is the most prevalent female-only 12-step group I've come across when looking for sex addiction support. In my own words, SLAA is all about helping individuals who suffer from relationship-centered addiction experiences. I feel as though SLAA would have been an incredibly helpful group for me to attend as a single woman struggling with "love addiction," sex addiction, and toxic relationships on a regular basis, however, as a married woman, it doesn't quite hit the spot for me.

The next sex addiction option I found was Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). In my opinion, SAA, is truly the perfect general sex-addiction, 12-step group because it covers a little bit of everything. They discuss relationship issues, unhealthy sexual behaviors with others, as well as pornography and masturbation addiction. This group was honestly a great fit for me, the only drawback was that I could only find one female-only SAA meeting even remotely close to my home and it was a 45-minute drive to the opposite side of the city.

Had I encountered SAA earlier in my recovery, I believe I would have been a more consistent and active member of that 12-step community (even with the ridiculously long drive). However, due to discovering it so late in my recovery, I ultimately decided that it wasn't worth the drive, the effort, and the traffic I would inevitably face. By the time I found this SAA group I had already locked down over a year of "sober time," so I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities to do life alone at that point.

Final Outcome on 12-Step Groups

Looking back, I wish I would have made more efforts to seek out 12-step groups earlier in my recovery because I definitely feel like I missed out on gaining so many crucial connections that recovering addicts desperately need during those first few weeks and months. However, I also wish that there were more female-only groups and more tangible options for minority groups like PAA because I believe that really would have sparked a deeper interest for me.

Please keep in mind that every group you attend depending on your county, city, state, time, location, etc., can vary greatly and evolve based off of who attends and where the majority of members are in their personal recoveries. My personal experiences are just that, personal. They do not at all reflect every SAA or SLAA group that exists all throughout the country. At the end of the day, I'm grateful for what the 12-step community does and regardless of my personal experiences, I am an outspoken advocate and supporter of 12-step curriculum, groups, and communities.

If you struggle with addiction, any addiction, I highly recommend you get out there and try a few recovery groups. They don't have to be the ones I've listed above and they do not have to be 12-step related at all. There are dozens of group options out there for addicts and ultimately their greatest purpose is to create a healthy, safe, and supportive community for the recovering addict. We all need community and connections sometimes, so go ahead and give it a shot. You might be surprised by what and who you find within those four walls.

APA Reference
Richardson, A. (2019, August 29). 12-Step Groups for Sex Addiction: My Experience, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Amanda Richardson

Amanda is a professional health and wellness writer who specializes in creating content tailored to the female audience. She is especially passionate about social injustice, mental health, and addiction recovery.

Find Amanda on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog.

For more information on Amanda's professional writing services, be sure to check her out at Richardson Writing Influence.

Gary Becker
August, 29 2021 at 11:35 am

I'm in relapse mode caused by work and home stress, and found this while looking for some updated resources. I concur with many of your experiences as i live in Atlanta and there are resources but the quality of the resources have left me without many options. I started my recovery in 1995 but didn't get serious until 1997 when i went to rehab for 9 weeks. it was in rehab that i saw how 12 step was supposed to work and what good meetings were like.
I had started with SA in '95 because they had a very strict bottom line. Unfortunately, I found they were the Neo-Nazis of sex addiction recovery and not very supportive. In fact, their attitudes toward recovery were unhealthy, lots of relapses, very little tolerance (almost hypocritical), very little long term sobriety, and negative views on relationships. This probably set my recovery back 2 years. After rehab I went to other SLAA and SA meetings but still found them lacking, very little long term sobriety and too many soft bottom lines. My wife went to S-Anon, and said it was mostly spouses bitching about their other half. We did go to RCA, but the meetings dissolved from lack of attendance.
My biggest complaint about sex addition recovery and 12 step is that most people who get sober disappear and don't give back. Most of the sponsors i found were restrictive about when I could contact them. It's as if they have their life together and don't want there new life intruded upon. Thankfully i had a great therapist in rehab and continued with him after in private and group sessions. Unfortunately, he died suddenly and although i have new therapist, its just not the same.
I hope this adds to your body of knowledge.
Since then I've been able to use the AA clubhouse near me but I have to be very generic in my speaking. Way too much 13th stepping going on and old timers who don't want to address the small passages Bill wrote on relationships and things beyond.

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