When I came to SA, I was truly desperate. My lifelong acting out had destroyed my marriage, destroyed my career, and was putting my life at immediate risk. I had tried everything I could think of to control it, and had failed miserably. I had nothing else to try.
My wife had just left me, fulfilling her frequently repeated promise to do so over the preceding couple of years, and I realized that I had never really wanted her gone after all. I had left a well-paid job to form my own business but no business was happening because I was spending my time in sexual play. My tax return for that whole year read “zero” at the bottom line.
But worst of all was that I was pursuing extreme "sexual play" that was truly life-threatening; my last encounter involved me being bound helplessly while someone else played breath control games on me. (In a public US incident a few months ago, a high-profile prisoner asphyxiated himself in his cell during self-erotic play. That could have been me.) In other incidents, I found ways to immobilize myself sexually and be unable to get free for some hours. (Imagine a house fire during that time.) I was convinced, in that desperate time, that I would be dead within a few months in some sordid front-page incident. For me, SA recovery is not just a matter of “Oh, gee. I’ve been spending too much time on the Internet.”
For me, SA recovery is truly a matter of life-and-death.
But worse still, this is also a disease of forgetting. And I often forget that recovery for me is a matter of life-and-death. I start thinking that I can control this, that I am “recovered,” and thereby cease to maintain the attitude of humility that I learned in those first months. And hence, my three incidents over the years in which I decided to MB after years of counted sobriety.
But on the flip side, when I came to SA, they really did have a solution.
It required me to set aside my perceptions of what I “should” be doing, and to follow the directions of what they did. Luckily, that was pretty clear to me. I had already tried everything I could think of to do. I was fresh out of ideas. And these people told me that what they had done had worked for them. So in desperation, I jumped in whole hog:
- I attended as many meetings as I could. (Easy to do, with my wife gone and no business.) That meant 4-5 meetings per week. There were only two in my town, so I was driving as far as 1.5 hours each way.
- I listened in meetings, and tried to follow their lead of what and how to share. For a while, I dumped my problems in the meetings. But then I realized that the older members didn’t do that. Instead, they’d present a problem they faced, then they’d talk about how the Steps and Traditions helped them to solve that problem without resorting to acting out. As I started using that practice, I came to realize that dumping my problems only made me feel better for a moment. Talking solution made them go away.
- I asked the first member I met to sponsor me, and he said “yes.” (But then, being the self-absorbed git that I was, I didn’t call him much.) I mostly did what he told me to do, even if it didn’t make much sense to me.
- I got a copy of the SA White Book and read it cover-to-cover in about a week and a half.
- I started working the Steps immediately. As I read the SAWB, I applied it to me and started using the Steps on a daily basis. Then I started actually writing. I took what I wrote to my sponsor and got his direction on how to do it better.
- I joined SA-Net so that I’d have daily shares from members who had some recovery. Not just to chat with other people who were like me, but to read the solutions those other members had – and to contribute to those solutions.
- I started doing service to the meetings as soon as I could. I was treasurer of our home meeting after 30 days of sobriety. I helped SA-Net find a new email service (twice!). I contributed to resolving some SA controversy. Service helped me to keep alive that sense of humility.
The result was simply amazing, and much more than I ever expected. I found 3.5 months of sobriety from the very first, before my first MB slip. I’ve had sobriety durations of 2 years, 4 years, and 6 years at different points. I’ve been completely free from lust for periods as long as four months. But, even more amazing is that, since the day I came to SA, I have never done any of the dangerous things that threatened my life. Even more, I have never even picked up a piece of pornography or opened a sexual website! For a man whose life was completely obsessed with sex 24 hours a day, this is nothing short of a miracle.
My wife and I returned together after seven months of separation. Since then, we have had the marriage we have always wanted. My career began again on a new basis - recovery attitudes pervade my work and I use the skills God has given me to help others. My business thrives today and, as we near retirement, we are better off than we ever were before.
The fact that I’m alive today is a miracle. I should have been dead back then. For me, SA is life over death. And one of my true joys today is to be able to share this with my friends in recovery.