The first step on the path is often the most difficult, because the idea of going to a meeting of strangers to disclose your most shameful behavior and thoughts is often unimaginable. The gift of the twelve-step program is the reduction of shame. When you walk into a room and share your story and hear others, you might, for the first time in your life, feel relief from the grasp of your addiction. Instead of people running away from you, horrified by your past, they embrace and invite you into their healing circle. This experience can be a spiritual moment because of the possibility of transformation and hope.
The Twelve-Step model can also change sex addicts' core beliefs. The group holds addicts accountable by requiring them to work the twelve steps, and it can function as an addict's first "healthy family," accepting them unconditionally. Such groups help addicts by mirroring, supporting, and affirming them as they move toward sober and healthy sexuality.
When addicts share their experiences, strength, and hope, individuals do not sit in judgement or call them perverts. Rather, people say, I identify with you." As shame is lifted, individuals move into a better position; they are less defensive and can begin to look at their cognitive distortions and other coping mechanism. Self-esteem will undo addiction; just as abandonment fuels shame and shame fuels addiction, healthy self-love fuels connection, which it the base or glue of spirituality.