The Problem With Video Conferencing For A Recovering Addict Like Me…

In our current COVID-19 state of the world, many who are sober from former addictions are choosing to do video conferencing meetings as the only safe alternative to in-person 12 Step meetings. Unfortunately, for an addict like me, even video meetings can prove to be a challenge. Let me explain.

Almost eight years ago now, just before I became sober from unhealthy sex and love-based addict behaviors, I spent much time communicating via video. There, I lived in a voyeuristic world of lust and temptation with plenty of adults far older than I. Sometimes it even seemed that I lived more in that world, than in reality, enjoying a totally make-believe cyber world of individuals I’d never meet. Talking on video eventually translated to just another form of sex for me, a very unhealthy one at that. I saw things on video with others that I wish today I could un-see and I did things on camera back then that I wish I could undo. But I can’t of course. And now I’m living in a world where video is becoming more and more of a way of communicating through things like Facetime, Skype, Facebook Video Messenger, Zoom, and a number of others, each to help us all connect a little closer.

While I do occasionally use video talks with close friends, sponsors and sponsees, or those in the sex and love addiction recovery programs, it’s always with those who know my addiction backgrounds, who are respectful, and don’t pose a threat to my sobriety. But, now, as 12 Step meetings are being forced to move to the video realm to continue functioning in this COVID-19 world, it’s posing a problem for me. Let me give you a recent example to explain why.

One of the men’s spiritual groups I’m part of has chosen to move online temporarily to Zoom recently like a number of other groups have. While there are a few individuals in this group I find attractive, I’ve never had an issue with that aspect at our in-person meetings, and have always been able to remain focused there. But, as I sat on our first Zoom meeting, waiting for each person to get online, suddenly a camera came online with one of the group members I find attractive. They were lying down in bed, were shirtless, and it appeared they had minimal clothing overall as well. I was immediately triggered and suddenly I was thrust back into the days when seeing people just like that on video, were all part of my normal day-to-day addict behavior. Thankfully the moderator forced the person to put a shirt on and sit up, but the damage to my ability to remain present was shot by that point. As the meeting wore on, I also became distracted when another member straddled one of the wooden posts of their bed frame, as they tried to get comfortable. As they sat there with the phallic-looking object in between their legs, they rubbed their hands on the ball at the top of it, causing me even more addiction distress.

While I’m sure both were oblivious to the impact of their actions and held no hidden intentions in them whatsoever, it’s those type of things that were precisely what made up much of voyeuristic video life long ago. The fact is, I struggled the entire meeting to remain present because of those actions, constantly remembering the days of old when I’d sit on my computer and stare at a number of video chats in front of me of people I was lusting over. As those who may wonder why I shy away from doing 12-Step video meetings, which includes my own AA home group who’s using this modality now, this is the reason why. Like the recovering alcoholic would never go to a bar for recovery, it’s not the best modality for me to use video chats for my recovery from sex and love addiction.

So, as I continue to navigate these uncharted waters that COVID-19 keeps bringing, I am doing my best to find healthy ways to maintain my sobriety and recovery and thankfully, I still do have a few other options that don’t have to involve video conferencing.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson