David D (Milwaukee)
For me, the key word of the Ninth Characteristic is "magical". What is this magical quality I search for in others? And I must say, I search for this magical characteristic not only in sexual or romantic partners, but in friends, co-workers, and family. And it doesn't disappear only after I have had sex with someone; it disappears when I get to know someone beyond a superficial level. I think that magical is the perfect word for this quality, because magic is a practice that depends on illusion: the magician doesn't make things disappear; he creates the illusion of making something disappear. So much of my addiction is driven by illusion. The more I am in my addiction, the less I see the world as it really is, and the more I see the world as I want or hope it to be. The more I am in my addiction, the less I see a potential lover or friend as he or she really is, and the more I see them as a fabrication of my desires, an illusion. My guess is that we all harbor images of the ideal lover, the ideal friend. I know I do. And when I meet someone new, I imagine that he or she will live up to this ideal; actually, as an addict, I don't even imagine I know. I cast my new friend or lover in the role of my idealized image. And it is only a matter of time before I, often painfully, see the disparity between reality and my illusion.
I have heard other sex-romance addicts talk about The Chase, The Conquest. They say that they are addicted to the process of acquiring a new lover, and that when they have won the chase, they're bored and want to move on to another chase, abandoning the person they've just "acquired". I can't help but feel that this chase is driven by illusion. I know for me it is. Whether I see someone as an imaginary ideal or as some "trophy" to win, I know I am not seeing this person as a human being. And the truth is that he or she is a living, breathing human being, with flaws and gifts, and an intricate, complex history. Once I've gotten to the point of having sex with this person, I usually am forced to see that he or she doesn't, and in no way could, live up to my imaginary ideal. And like any good addict, I often bail.
So how do I address this characteristic in myself? I work a comprehensive recovery program, trying to use all the tools. Specifically, I know that reaching out to fellow addicts and getting to know them as living, breathing human beings is valuable for me. Hearing other addicts talk openly and honestly about their lives at meetings is a powerful way for me to see people as they really are, not as illusions. I also engage in Zen Buddhist meditation, a practice that asks me to let my thoughts come and go, recognizing that these thoughts are secretions of my own mind and not necessarily reality. In any event, there is certainly no "quick fix". My recovery is a moment by moment process of nurturing a willingness to let go of my illusions and see life as it really is.