Confessions of a group work sceptic

Until shortly before embarking on the Laurel Centre recovery course, I had never been to any kind of therapy in my life. I thought I would never need it. That was for others. When things fell apart, I went for general counselling, and things felt a little better. I did not feel judged, as I had expected, as I felt I deserved to be.

My counsellor mentioned Paula Hall. I had never heard of her or her work. I looked her up and bought her books. I admit I was afraid to. I didn’t want to make excuses for my behaviour. I started reading them, and I couldn’t believe what was there. There was an uncanny resonance between what was described and explained and what I had been doing, thinking, feeling. It began to sink in: I have a problem, it could be sex addiction and didn’t realise it.

The fear

Group therapy?: out of the question. Sit around and share what I had done with a bunch of strange guys? Madness. Why would I do that? I worried about confidentiality, about the excruciating embarrassment of telling others what I had done, about being judged. I would take no part in it. Again, that was for others.

Then I met Paula Hall for a session and in an almost casual (clever) way she helped me to deconstruct my problems. My life, in fact. I was persuaded to try group therapy. I was assured it was the best (only) way to properly expose what I needed to confront. I reluctantly agreed.

The reality

The recovery week was a revelation, no exaggeration.

I met a great bunch of guys, all with different stories. They were normal, decent people who had got themselves into an addiction. They wanted help and to live a better life. They were great fun, we had such a laugh, sometimes difficult to control. We socialised together and kept in touch after the course, and still do; we are in an ongoing non-judgmental support group.

It was such a relief to find out that what I had experienced was not just something I had done because I wanted to and then wanted to continue to do. To get away with. To hide. In hearing about the brain chemistry, the anatomy of addiction, how it grips you, controls you and changes you, I could come to terms with what I had done. I heard strong parallels in what others had done. I began to wonder just how common this might be. If I was an alcoholic or drug addict or addicted to gambling, people would understand. A sex addiction is no different in its essentials from any of those addictions. It is the stigma which is the problem. That stigma just melted away in that room for a week.

I also began to understand how childhood experiences, hang-ups and resentments offer sustenance to an addiction. Without the course, I would never have accepted it.

The course was expertly designed and delivered, a gradual process of learning, sharing and discussing. It was compelling.  The materials were excellent and unlike the materials from most training courses or conferences I have been on, I use many of them on a regular basis. They are practical, not aspirational or theoretical.

The course was superb value for money – how can you put a value on your life, your peace of mind, your relationships, your recovery?

The result

The course allowed me to lay the foundations for recovery, provided the practical day to day tools for it and most of all let me understand that I am not a freak or a pervert. I am an ordinary, decent guy who tipped into bad behaviour as a way to soothe problems I didn’t even know I had.

There is another path to follow. That path is this course.

As a direct result of the course, I made significant changes in my life. I see life differently now. I can prioritise and rationalise in a way I have never been able to.

I started as a sceptic, a scoffer even. I was wrong. Dead wrong, and I am now a convert. I suggest you cast off your doubts, park your hang-ups and do it. You won’t regret it, I promise.