Hello, my name is Bella, and I am a sex addict.

This meeting was different, that is for sure. I had always gone to women-only meetings, but this was an open meeting for men and women. Of course, most of those in attendance were men, and most of them were only there out of curiosity or to pick up a new piece of, well, you know. I knew those looks all too well. It seemed I was always getting them from both men and women. I wasn't really into women, but I could definitely appreciate a good-looking woman. And, in a pinch, a woman was better than being alone.

This Seattle chapter of SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) was recommended to me by my doctor back home in Phoenix. Dr. Cullen had been the angel sent from Heaven who saved me. He was originally from Seattle, but had moved to Phoenix to help his wife care for her parents. Rene, or Mom as she insisted I call her, had called me last week to let me know that Mrs. Cullen's mom had passed away and that they were expecting her dad to follow fairly shortly. Dr. Cullen had always told me he wanted to come home to Seattle, so when I told him I had been transferred up there to my company's main publishing house, he was so excited. He gave me advice on where to live, who to use as an insurance agent and the contact information for the local SAA chapter to make sure that I wouldn't miss any meetings. The last thing either of us wanted was to see me fall off the wagon, again.

Dr. Cullen had been my primary care physician since I fifteen, but it only last year, after my 23rd birthday, when he became a permanent fixture in my life. I will never forget the day that my parents, Rene and Charlie, my step-dad, Phil, and my long-term boyfriend, Jacob, along with my best friend, Alice, had conducted an intervention with me immediately following the Christmas holiday. I thought I had done a good job of hiding the drinking and the pills, or so I had managed to convince myself. But when the five of them cornered me on that couch with that therapist, I bucked and bucked hard. I told them I didn't have a problem with alcohol or drugs and that they needed to butt the hell out of my life. I threatened to break up with Jake and disown my parents if they didn't go away and leave me alone. I didn't even have any words for Alice. Her betrayal hurt the most because she knew much more than any of them did about my personal life. Eventually they all backed off for a few days, until that night I wrecked my car and spent the night in lockup. So, with a DUI breathing down my neck, I finally relented and agreed to see Dr. Cullen for a referral to a rehab clinic.

I was so scared when I entered his office. I couldn't think of a way out this mess. When I stormed out of the intervention, I called one of my guy friends and told him I wanted to finally take him up on his offer of partying with him and his two army buddies who were home on leave. He had been bugging me for a week to do it, and after the day I had just experienced, I needed the release. I had never taken three men at once before, and it was such a rush. But, I was drunk and high and pretty sure we didn't use condoms for everything. I was so ashamed. On the outside I was a successful book editor on the fast track in my career. To the world, I had a loving and wonderful boyfriend who wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. But I knew the truth. I was a druggie, a drunk and a whore and I just plain hurt. The next thing I know, I am bawling like a baby to Dr. Cullen confessing all my sins.

As I broke down in Dr. Cullen's office and told him about about the drinking, the pills and the sex, he looked at me with the most compassionate eyes. I felt him place his hand on my knee as he moved closer to me while I sat on the papered exam table, tears streaming down my face. His other hand went to my chin as I gazed into his golden eyes. He wasn't in his usual lab coat. It was casual Friday and he was wearing a light-weight navy blue sweater, faded jeans and a pair of brown, snake-skin boots. His gaze lasted for what seemed an eternity. My breath hitched as that familiar jolt of electricity took over. He leaned into me, lips almost touching mine, and gently kissed my cheek. I was so confused. He took a deep breath and then pulled his head back. His eyes had changed. They were black with what I thought was lust, but filled with tears. He was obviously waging some type of internal struggle. His hand began to shake on my knee and he transformed into a very frightened and cautious man. His scent was assaulting my senses, a musky woodsy sent that was causing my pulse to to increase and my pupils to dilate.

"How many Bella?" His voice penetrated the thick silence in the room. He sounded unsure, steady, perhaps even fearful of my response.

I watched his lips move, his tongue glide over his straight, white teeth and then nothing. Everything just stopped. His words echoed in my brain and I was unable to cypher their syntax. Bella. Yes, that was me. How was a question word and many was a quantitative term. Bella, how many? Three simple words. The three most terrifying words ever uttered to me.

"Bella, honey?" His voice was like honey, thick and sweet and lingering as it slowing dripped into my ears. "How many?" There were those words again! My brown eyes grew wide and my brain went into auto pilot...count...many...how....one, two, ten, twenty, one hundred, many. I opened my mouth to speak, but my tongue was dry and I was afraid that I would forget to breathe if I spoke. I tilted my head to the side, feeling my long, brown hair cascade across my neck and down my chest. His eyes never left mine and then it struck me. I knew Dr. Cullen as someone else.

"I don't know." It was all I could manage. Did he know who I really was? Could that really be him?

"One or two?" Ah, twenty questions. I could still feel the tremor in his hand as he touched my knee. His eyes inquisitive, but also holding something back. I shook my head. He continued to probe.

"Five?" I blinked as the number rolled around my brain while shaking my head.

"Ten?" My head never quit shaking. He pursed his lips together in steely resolve. They were the palest shade of pink, thin and exfoliated. I pursed my lips in response to his.

"Many more?" His voice shook, but he he never looked away, although I could detect the microscopic increase of his pupils with each number he spoke. I stopped shaking my head and started a slow, deliberate nod entranced by his eyes. Many...there was that word again. More...I always wanted more, needed more. He took a deep breath and resumed his onslaught.

"More than twenty?" My nodding continued. I had never confided to anyone in person exactly how many men I had let take me and make my body theirs. Even Alice was only vaguely aware of just how deep my activities delved.

"Fifty?" He held his breath. I curled my lip up in a slow, aching smile. My head never stopped nodding.

"A hundred?" Just numbers. I continued to nod. His face scrunched up in agony at my revelation. He was sad, and I had to fix that the only way I knew how.

"I don't know, Dr. Cullen." My voice was high-pitched, overly sincere. I batted my eyelashes and bit my lower lip. He cocked his head and then slowly stepped back, but not before I could feel his response against my knee. He quickly averted his eyes, coughed and adjusted himself before turning his back to me. I waited quietly until he turned back around. He ran his hand through his beautiful blonde hair before turning back around to face me. What he said next shocked me back into reality.

"Bella, what I am going to say to you is not to leave this room. Do you understand?" His black eyes stared hungrily at me as he moved towards the door and locked it. I nodded my head. The electricity was heavy in the air and he once again moved towards me. I never flinched. I was a good little girl. I always had been.

"Under these circumstances you need to call me Carlisle." Of course I was to call him Carlisle. We were about to get much better acquainted, only I had no idea just how much so. He put his hand back on my knee and the personal space between us evaporated. His voice seduced me into submission. I was his to do with as he pleased. He took a deep breath.

"Bella, you have what is called a sex addiction. I know because, I, too, am a sex addict."

He waited for the words, the idea, the revelation to sink in.

"Bella, you have a personality very similar to my own. It is called an addictive personality. When we do things, we have an overwhelmingly strong tendency to do them to the extreme. We get a euphoric high when we do these things. We are like an alcoholic, shopaholic or compulsive gambler. We over-do things to get a buzz. Some people over-eat, others over-sleep and some over-exercise. You, my dear, are addicted to sex."

My body was aching. This whole situation was all wrong. Why was he not touching me the way I wanted, no needed to be touched? Why was he babbling on about alcoholics and gambling?

"I have some hard questions to ask you," he said as he took his hand from my knee and sat in the chair across from the papered table. I shook my head and just listened.

"Bella, are you practicing safe sex?" I raised my eyebrows. Again, not what I was expecting to hear, but it made sense to hear in a medical exam. I nodded my head. "Every time?" I paused and then heard my voice.

"Most of the time, I think." Then the fear gripped me hard and I fought back the sobs that were quickly escalating into a panic attack. "Stupid, stupid! I am so stupid! I am going to die, aren't I? Oh, God, Carlisle, there were a few times I haven't, and a few times I can't even remember." He quickly jumped up and took my hand and rubbed soothing circles along the knuckles. "We'll run some tests, but I am sure you are fine. We ran routine blood tests on you a few months ago and everything was clean, but we will run them again just to verify and make sure nothing has changed." My eyes darted around the room. I needed a fix, something to calm me down, a Valium or Xanax or Vicodin. "Calm down, Bella, please," Carlisle pleaded. He hugged me and whispered in my ear that it was all going to be ok and for the first time in a long time, I felt the touch of a man that wasn't sexual, and I was totally and utterly lost.

I regained my composure and as Carlisle handed me some tissue to dry my tears. He told me he was going to send me to a residential facility where they would oversee my physical detox. This particular facility specialized in all types of addictions, including sexual, and while there I would begin intensive therapy sessions to help me begin the recovery process. He said he was starting me on a regimen of anti-depressant medication that would specifically help take the edge off of my compulsive behaviors. He also said it is the same facility he went to and assured me that there is hope for a sustained recovery. This particular facility was out of state and discrete. He left the room and made the necessary arrangements while I waited and wondered. After what seemed forever, he returned.

"Well, Bella, everything is ready. They will take excellent care of you, and I will personally monitor your progress. Once you complete their program we will have to find you a chapter of SAA to attend on a regular basis."

"What is that?" I am sure I sounded stupid, but really had no idea what all these acronyms mean.

"Sex Addicts Anonymous. My chapter is currently males-only, but I am sure we will be able to find local meetings for you to attend. I am pretty sure there is a females-only chapter for you to attend. The bi-weekly meetings will be very important for your recovery." His easy smile made me relax. I decided to ask him more questions.

"How did you know, Carlise? I mean, how did you know that you have a sex addiction?"

He paused and smiled again. "It is a very long story, but one I promise to tell you one day."

I continued to look at him. I had so many questions. "Will I need a sponsor? Like they have in AA?"

His raised his eyebrows and nodded. "Yes, after you finish your residential stay we will find you a sponsor to help you." He looked away, thoughtful. Almost as an afterthought he said, "And you can always talk to me."

"Thanks." I didn't know what else to say. Then I decided I just had to come out and say it. "Carlisle, we chatted, didn't we? Aren't you," I began before he abruptly cut me off.

"Yes, Bella." I gasped. Oh, no!

"But, that was a long time ago, before I found help." I continued to listen, captivated by him. "I know what you are going through. The nights of wasted hours looking at porn, surfing for hookups, meaningless sexual encounters and masturbating until it hurts." The words were so hard for him get out. The pain so evident in his features.

"Carlisle?" He looked at me.

"Yes?"

"Is that why you stopped talking to me? Is that why you never showed up that night?"

He breathed a heavy sigh. Slowly, he nodded his head. Then, he turned his head towards mine and smiled again. I thought maybe I saw regret in his eyes.

I pressed on. "Do you still want me like that?" I wasn't sure I wanted to know the answer.

"Bella, every day is a struggle for me, as it is for all recovering addicts. I keep the Serenity Prayer with me at all times and recite it when I feel temptation, like now." He paused again and looked me straight in the eyes. "But, Bella, I have committed to my recovery and I am committed to your recovery. My relationship with you can not and will not be sexual." And just like that I felt the sexual tension melt. I jumped off the table and ran into his arms and sobbed again. I trusted him and felt so safe with him there in that room, locked away from all the pain of the world.

"Oh, Carlisle, you are truly an angel sent to save me!." As I pressed myself into him, I couldn't feel his erection.

"God grant me the serenity," I heard him whisper over and over again.

That was over a year ago and Carlisle, and his wife Esme, are like my second parents. My own parents couldn't understand my sex addiction, and so were unable to provide the support I really needed. Had it not been for the support and understanding given to me by Carlisle and Esme, I would never have been able to sustain my recovery. In the end, Alice was the only other person who really stood by my side. Jacob figured it was a phase of some sort, so we decided to take a break from our relationship when I told him I was taking the job in Seattle. As luck would have it, Alice also had the opportunity to move to Seattle. She and I decided to live together since I didn't want to live alone. We both feared the stresses of the move and the new job would trigger another acting out episode, so it was imperative that I begin attending meetings my first night there though since it would be another couple of weeks before Alice arrived. I was on my own until I found a local sponsor to help me through the transition. Carlisle called a friend of his in Seattle and asked her to be my local sponsor. I was actively looking for her as I went to the refreshment table.

"Bella?" I turned around to see a kindly woman in her late 40's or early 50's smiling warmly at me.

"Yes?" I asked.

"Hi. I'm Elizabeth." She radiated with a glow of serenity as she held out her hand. I took it and returned her smile. She reminded me of the school secretary from high school. You know, the person who really runs a school. She was a beautiful woman who hid her beauty behind large glasses and a librarian's bun. She was elegantly dressed in a pair of black slacks and a simple white blouse. Her only jewelery was a simple gold wedding band. She could easily be my mom, if my mom weren't a flighty over-grown teenager herself.

"Hi. Yes, I am Bella." I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I had found my anchor here in Seattle.

"Carlisle has told me so much about you. I know we will be great friends. Let me give you my cell. Call me anytime, day or night. I am here for you. Would you like to go get some coffee after the meeting or would you prefer to maybe get together for lunch one day this week?" She talked so fast I wondered how she was able to breathe. I was already on sensory overload from the meeting, so maybe she really wasn't talking that fast, but it did take me a second to absorb everything.

"Thanks, I'd really like to do have lunch one day." I hated not feeling up to coffee tonight. "I am pretty tired tonight and don't think I would make good company," I explained as I punched in her cell number.

"Oh, I understand. The first meeting can be overwhelming. There are a lot of newbies here, mostly guys looking for some easy action," she said as she winked at me and laughed. Her laughter was infectious and I couldn't help but relax and crack a smile. "So, are you free for lunch tomorrow?"

"Um, sure, I don't start work until Monday." I rocked back and forth on my feet while I sipped my coke. I didn't usually drink caffeine, but tonight was special.

"Great," she said. "I'll call you around 11:00 then, alright?" Her intense green eyes mirrored the enthusiasm in her voice. I smiled and nodded. She stepped forward and embraced me in an unexpected hug. Her hug reminded me of Esme, and I sighed thinking about my family. I would have to call her and Carlisle and let them know how my first meeting went. As I was thinking through all the things to tell them I heard Elizabeth growl at a couple of guys who were gawking at us.

"Dream on boys!" Her voice jolted me out of my thoughts. I couldn't help but giggle as she scowled at them.

"Well, I guess their MILF fantasies will have to be fulfilled elsewhere, huh?" I continued to giggle at my own joke while she just stared at me, and I began to wonder if she wasn't impressed with my sense of humor. Then, out of nowhere, she busted her gut laughing so hard I thought she was going to cry or pee her pants.

"I see why Carlisle and Esme love you so, Bella. I'll call you tomorrow. Be careful going home." She gave me another hug and left to talk to someone else. I smiled as I headed out to my car. Yep, this was definitely going to be a good thing, my move to Seattle.