I first came to SA on November 27, 1992, and I've been sober ever since. When someone asks me what I've done to stay sober, my answer is always the same: "I don't know. I did not do it; I have a Higher Power who shows me that He can do it." I thank God every day for my sobriety—but I'm in a very hard place today.
My wife passed away six months ago, on June 28, 2011, after she had struggled with cancer for 17 months. For 17 months, we went through cycles of promises of hope for her recovery, followed by announcements that another tumor had been found and they would try a different chemotherapy. Then hope! Then another tumor, a different type of treatment, more surgery, a different hospital, and different promises. Over and over. Yet none of those promises came true.
As I watched the closest person in my life go from bad to progressively worse, I went through cycles of hope and despair. Today I understand what my wife must have gone through with me during the years of my addiction, when I made many promises to her that never came true until I came to SA. I suffered a similar pain as I watched her dying.
When my wife died, she left me with four sons at home. One of our sons is in high school, one is in college, and the other two are handicapped. My 27-year-old lives on a respirator. My 24-year-old is mentally retarded and has cerebral palsy. My wife was the hero who took care of our children for 27 years, but I must take care of them now. Sometimes I must lift one of the them into a wheelchair or back in bed. I often feel overwhelmed, trying to be both a mother and a father to them.
I have 24-hour nurses paid by Medicaid, but they are not always available on weekends or holidays. At other times, I'm home at night and the nurse who takes care of my kids is living in our house. As a sexaholic, I'm not comfortable with the situation, but I have no choice. Yet I know that if I stay sober, I will be okay.
I have been told, "Don't quit before the miracle"—and I have seen many miracles. I often cry out to my Higher Power, "Show me the light!" I'm very emotional but I know that acting out is not a solution. Staying sober is the solution. I need to stay sober, go to meetings, and stay connected to God—and things will work out in the end. I also must find acceptance. Almost daily I find myself in tears, and I pray again to have acceptance.
When I came to SA, I was told that this is not a religious program. I was blessed because my Higher Power led me to a man who came from an Orthodox Jewish background, similar to my own. He was able to explain things to me. He told me, "This is only a disease, it is not about being good or bad. Just step aside, and stop fighting." I had been fighting this disease for more than 20 years.
I began masturbating when I was 12. I turned to street prostitutes when I was 20. By age 35, I was a full-blown drug addict, alcoholic, and sexaholic. Eventually, my behavior became so objectionable that my wife and sons insisted that I get help. I realized I was in trouble so I called a cocaine hot line. The person who called me back referred me to a clinic, and the clinic recommended a therapist.
When I saw the therapist I told him, "It's not the cocaine, it's the women!" I firmly believed this. (Today I realize that it was not the women but my view of them.) The therapist said, "Maybe that's a problem, but we need to deal with the cocaine first because it's serious." I said, "No it's the women!" We went back and forth on this, but he finally convinced me to go to AA meetings. I went to a few AA meetings but then returned to the therapist and told him that AA was not for me. I said, "I'm Jewish. You have to understand; Jewish people are different!" I continued to meet with him once a week for four months, but during that time I could not stay sober from drugs or alcohol or prostitutes. So I reluctantly went back to AA.
The meeting I attended was held in a church. After one of my first meetings, a man walked up to me and said, "Hello. My name is Robert. I'm an alcoholic and I happen to be Jewish too. I'm guessing you feel very uncomfortable here. Take my number and call me if you need help."
About three weeks later I went out on a binge. I binged for two or three days and spent around $800. I got home at 11:30 p.m., half stoned, drunk, and acting out—and I called Robert. I said, "Robert, let me tell you what I've done." As I started dumping all the details, he interrupted me. "Stop!" he said. "Why are you calling me?" I replied, "You gave me your number and told me to call you!" He said, "I specifically said to call me if you need help. You're not calling for help now. You're crazy! You are dying and you don't even know it." He said that if I really want help, I should call him before, not after I act out—and that if I really wanted help, I should call him the next morning. Then he hung up. That was my first spiritual awakening. He told me I was crazy and I believed him. I still believe it!
As I sat there staring at the phone I thought to myself, "The man is right. I am crazy," and I started crying. I got scared. In the morning I called Robert, told him I was scared, and asked what I should do. He invited me to spend the day with him at his office. So I went to his office and he began to teach me about recovery. He started taking me to AA meetings. He said, "Two years ago, I was where you are today, so I understand where you're coming from."
But I continued to struggle with lust. I would tell Robert, "It's not the alcohol or drugs, it's the women!" He disagreed. He told me to buy a stash of magazines and masturbate, but to stay away from prostitutes. He told me to attend a ton of AA meetings, talk about my struggles in meetings—and masturbate until I fell flat on my face.
I tried to be humble and follow my sponsor's directions, but this did not work for me. Maybe other people can masturbate and be okay, but not me. I'm a sexaholic. Still, going to AA was the beginning of my spiritual awakening.
Robert taught me about listening to a sponsor and surrendering to a Higher Power. He taught me about acceptance and humility. He had me start reading the Big Book and the 12&12, and he took me through the Steps. One of the first things Robert taught me was that I am powerless. Every morning, before 10 a.m., I was to pray, "God please help me because I can't" (cf. SA, 160). Every morning I had to pray this 200 times! He also taught me to pray, "Whatever you want for me, please keep me sober and give me one more day of sobriety." He said that this was a way to live, daily, the first three Steps.
One year after starting AA, during the week of my anniversary, I picked up a prostitute on the street. When I walked out of that hotel I was crying. I thought, "Robert does not understand who I am. Maybe AA works well for him, but not for me."
The next day was November 27, 1992. I went to my therapist's office and said, "AA does not work for me. Maybe it works for other people, but I'm different from everybody else." She suggested I try SA, so I called the SA hot line and a man returned my call. After a few minutes, he said, "I have the perfect person for you. I'll call him and give him your number." The man who called me back became my sponsor.
In SA I found my identity. I finally found brothers and sisters who could say to me: "We are just like you." Because of the things I learned in AA, when I came to SA I was ready for the program. In AA I learned that, because I'm an alcoholic, one drink will kill me. When I came to SA, I knew that masturbation was my drinking. I also knew that looking in a pornographic magazine or taking a second look would be drinking. And I knew that one look would kill me. Nineteen years later, I still know that one look can kill me. I cannot take one drink—whether alcohol or lust—and call myself sober.
When I look back on all those years, I realize that I was still crazy even after I came to SA. It took me years to get back to being even somewhat normal. For the first two years, once the drug of lust left my body, I could not function. I fell to pieces. Even though I was sober, I was mostly depressed and hateful. I could not deal with anything in life. I didn't want to act out, but I could not see living without acting out.
My wife got fed up with me. She would say, "Go act out. Leave the house. I can't stand you!" Yet she didn't desert me. If my wife were here today, I would say to her, "You had the full right to leave me. Why you gave me another chance I do not know, but I owe you my life."
Through all that pain, my Higher Power kept me sober. I don't know how exactly, but every day I would beg God, "Please just give me another day," and somehow it worked, and it is still working today. God led me to SA, and through SA He has kept me sober.
Shortly after I got sober in SA, I decided to figure out how much money I had spent on my addictions, so I went through my finances for 1991 (when I was at the peak of my addiction). I discovered that I had spent nearly $10,000 each month buying crack, smoking crack, and picking up street prostitutes. That's a lot of money! Even today it is a lot of money. But it was never enough. The worst part was that the money was not mine. I was managing real estate and taking care of other people's money—and I used their money for my disease.
I stole about six million dollars from these people. For my Step Nine amends, I had to call each of them and tell what I had done. This was scary, but all but one of them accepted the amends, thanked me for calling, and told me to pay them back when I was able. This was a huge relief! I learned that my fears are much worse than reality.
When I came to SA 19 years ago, I didn't believe in myself. I was in so much pain that I didn't believe I was worth anything. Both of my sponsors told me to pray to God and let Him do the job, and He has proven to me that He can do it. Even more amazing is the fact that He sometimes uses me to help others! I stand in wonder that other children of God sometimes benefit from this broken vessel.
When I started in the SA program, there were no meetings in the county where I lived. Four of us would travel 45 minutes to the closest meeting. I needed to find rides because I couldn't drive, so I begged the group to start a meeting in our home county. After a synagogue turned us down, we found a church that allowed us to use a meeting room twice a week. We eventually found three other places to meet. In this way, we were able to spread the message to our home town.
I also helped start a meeting in Israel. At times I would travel to Israel for family occasions, but in sobriety, I committed to myself that I could not go to Israel without being connected to SA members. Through SAICO, I found a contact person in Israel. I contacted him when I was there in 1997. I also met three or four other SA members there. They had no meeting place at the time, but I learned that one of them attended the synagogue where my brother-in-law is a Rabbi. Together, we asked my brother-in-law whether we could use a meeting room in his synagogue, and he agreed. This is how SA started in Israel.
My life has been blessed in many ways through the fellowship of SA. Today, somehow, through my staying sober and doing Step work, my Higher Power has made me both a father and a mother. I did not believe I was capable of this. To the day of my wife's death, I did not believe I could be a mother. This still is very hard for me to believe, but somehow I have not fallen apart. I have not acted out. I cannot explain this, except that I trust in my Higher Power.
The fact that I'm sober these days is a wonder. If anyone had told me that I could be alone at home with a nurse sleeping in the house and stay sober, I would not have believed it. Yet every day I surrender, and it works. I don't know what will happen tomorrow. I'm afraid, but it's healthy fear. I do my Step work every day because I'm scared, and in any case it is very beneficial to work the Steps daily.
I have a long Step Eight list of people I have harmed, but the one I hurt most was my wife. I robbed her of many, many years of a peaceful life. Yet the last six months of her life, as she was increasingly unable to take care of herself, I was there, able to be of service to her. I would read the Big Book and the White Book every day through her dying, and—thanks to God—I was there for her. I am grateful to my Higher Power that I was able to make this living amends to her. I felt that this was a gift.
After almost 20 years of sobriety, I still have not come up with the money to pay back all the people whose money I stole. Yet I know that if my Higher Power was able to guide me through making amends to my wife—the person whom I hurt the most—then I believe He will guide me through making amends to the others I have hurt.
I would like to start sober dating soon. This is a new experience that I never had to deal with in sobriety. I will need to get advice from people who have dated soberly. I will have to tell my future mate, before anything serious happens, about my history in SA. I'm already full of fear about this. If she is a woman of principle, I worry about how would she take knowing that I'm a sexaholic. And yet, I will do it, and I will have to do it in a sober way.
To those who are still struggling, I would like to finish with this thought: Wherever you are in life, I promise you that, if you stay sober and work the Steps and go to meetings, you will see miracles. Things will work out! I am living proof. I have lived through it; I'm still living through it, and somehow—even in tragedy—things are working out. When I let go and let God show me the way, He graciously guides me to a place of serenity. I place all of my trust in Him.
I want to thank all of you in the fellowship who have loved me and have shared this journey with me.