Characteristic 10

We were drawn to people who were not available to us, or who reject or abuse us. 

John F (NY)
My history is full of loss, abandonment and rejection, a story I hear over and over again in the rooms of SCA. The pattern began early. My parents were unavailable – my father a daily drinker, my mother focused on his alcoholic behavior. My mother died when I was 9, leaving me feeling terrified and alone with a crazy parent. The situation at home spiraled quickly down, leaving me in a house with no adults, heat, phone or electricity by the time I was 11.

When I discovered sex, all those problems seemed to vanish. Anonymity provided its own cloak of safety. I didn't have to connect on any mental or emotional level with these strangers. Real people were far too scary. Even at school, where I developed a crush on another boy, I was terrified of interacting with him in any real way. I carried on conversations with him in my head, never face to face. Again, I felt safe.

But this sexual compulsion and romantic obsession took up more and more of my time and energy. Eventually I was spending five or more hours every day either looking for sex, having sex, or obsessing about sex or romance. It got worse in college, where I went from straight A's to almost flunking out.

After college I met a man and we immediately moved in together. I thought having a lover would cure me; instead, this was the beginning of a 15-year relationship that was characterized by verbal abuse, rejection and unavailability. And I never stopped my sexual acting out with strangers. Three weeks was the longest I ever went before "the trance" would take over and I'd head for an acting-out place.

When I reached SCA at age 37, I had a deeply ingrained pattern of attraction to people who were unavailable or who would reject or abuse me. This pattern was one I could not change on my own, even when I became aware of it.

Instead, I started going to meetings and working the Steps with a caring sponsor. My relationship with my sponsor was the first I had experienced in decades where I felt unconditional support. He was not available all the time; he set limits, for instance, on when I could phone him. Yet when he was available, he was fully present, a situation I found overwhelming until I worked the first three Steps and accepted love into my life.

As I continued to work the Steps, I saw in Step Four how I had a role in my relationships. I felt safe with people who were unavailable because they would not abuse me. Rejection allowed me to feel angry, which I could then turn inward and use to justify my acting out. Abusive relationships were familiar; in fact, they were the basis of my family. All these contributed to my addictive behavior, which in turn led to these types of relationships. The vicious circle of addiction.

When I did my Fifth Step with my sponsor, I felt almost overwhelmed again at the love and acceptance I experienced in return. I realized there was still far to go, but now I was integrating a Higher Power into my life who would guide me. Step Six gave me the willingness to proceed, and Step Seven saw the gradual removal of my character defects, a miraculous transformation of them into character strengths. And so it goes. I look forward to additional work on Steps Eight through Twelve, which I believe will allow me to further integrate the love of others outside SCA into my life, and mine into theirs. These relationships are based on love and giving, not addiction and selfishness.

Today I see the Characteristics in one way as the SCA Promises. The 10th Characteristic says "we were drawn", not "we are drawn". Yes, it is true that I was drawn to those people. And now, through the grace of my Higher Power, on my good days I am no longer drawn to people who are unavailable to me. I am no longer drawn to people who reject or abuse me. And on those days when I am feeling down and still drawn to those people, I have the gift of sobriety, which tells me that I no longer have to act on those feelings.