Indescribable joy of being free from sex addiction

My name is D..... and I am a sexaholic. I have been sober for 13 years and six months - proof that the programme of Sexaholics Anonymous works for me. It works because I work the programme.

When I started my journey of recovery, I was not prepared to call myself a sexaholic, even though my life was unmanageable, I knew I had a problem with lust, and I was attracted to men. I was in denial.

I joined the SA fellowship in May 2001.  At my first meeting, as I heard people share I thought, “What a lot of sick people” - but of course I was the sickest one there, because I didn’t know I was sick.  When I saw that the programme involved Twelve Steps, I thought, “Okay, I will do one Step a week.  That means that, with a bit of hard work, I will be out of this place in 12 weeks.”  But by the end of the meeting I realized that these people had the same problem that I had: they were powerless over lust.

Needless to say, the next week I was willing to identify and say “My name is D..... and I’m a sexaholic.” I am still saying this more than thirteen years later. At last I had found a group of people who cared, who were honest with God, and who were honest with themselves and others.  I was home. The Twelve Steps became the framework on which I built my new life and to repair relationships.

What Was It Like?

I became interested in sexual things when I was eight or nine years old.  I was a shy, introverted boy. I was curious about girls and soon found that by playing “Doctors and Nurses,” I could exploit my girl cousins and their friends. My only male cousin died when he was eleven, so my acting out was with girls at this point.  I would also read magazines, using the images to feed my lust.  I had a stash of my favourite magazines hidden under my bed.

My father was an alcoholic and a World War One veteran who had served at Gallipoli.  He had emotional issues as a result of the war.  In fact, I think this was the reason he took to alcohol: to anesthetize his hurt and war memories.

My father found it difficult to show his love. He would buy me expensive presents, but what I needed was his approval and love, and I never felt that I got that.  He was often quite violent and many times I had to stand between him and my mother to protect her from harm.  I despised him for this. My mother on the other hand was a nurturing person who tried to be both mother and father.

I was the youngest of six children.  My brother was fourteen years older than I was, with four sisters between us. I never really connected with him because of the age difference. I was brought up in a Christian home and attended church regularly (which I continue to do to this day). My father attended church but also drank heavily. When he died at 94, he had changed for the better.  I miss him very much.

My parents owned a business and we moved around a lot as they changed the location of their business. I attended three different primary schools.  I was often “the new kid on the block” and I was bullied a lot, both at primary and high schools. I was 12, when a 14-year-old boy touched me in an inappropriate way. This was my first sexual experience with another male. From then onwards, I started to compare my sexual maturity with others.

In high school, I flirted a lot with girls but never had any relationships. I still hankered after approval from boys of my own age as well as older men. During this time I started to fantasize and masturbate on a regular basis - to comfort myself, to hide my loneliness, to hide the feeling of being inadequate, and to help me to go to sleep at night.

During this time I went to the beach with my parents.  In the changing room I saw a man about forty years old standing naked. He talked to me while I was getting changed. I would recall that image and masturbate, night after night.

When I was 17, I made a profession of faith and thought that now I would be free from this problem of masturbation. I felt free for various periods of time, but when I began masturbating again it would be much worse than before. I was on a downward spiral.

When I was 22, I married a lovely Christian girl to whom I am still married 49 years later (only because she remained faithful to me).  Now I thought, “I can have all the sex I want, when I want it, and no more masturbation.” But I started began again.  By the time I was 27, I had crossed a line that I said I would never cross: I acted out with a man in a public toilet. I felt dirty. I felt weak physically. I felt condemned. I swore that I would not do it again. I even tried to bargain with God as I understood Him.  I said, “God, help me to stop this and I will serve You faithfully forever.”  As I recall, I white-knuckled it for a time. Then, when I was 30, my mother died, and I was back to my old behaviour again.

There were years when I felt free of my obsessive behaviour, but each time I went back to my drug, I would cross another line that I was sure I wouldn’t. In the end I was going to saunas and acting out, going to nude beaches, acting out in public toilets, watching pornographic films in adult shops, and acting out while watching the films. I even paid for sex with men. I would act out on the way to work, during my lunch break, and after work. My whole thinking process was: “Where will I get my next fix.” All the while I wanted to stop, but the more I tried, the worse it became. The more I fought the lust, the more it fought back. Lust was my friend (so I thought), because it numbed my hurt and pain inside. But in reality, it was my enemy.

What Happened?

At 50 years old I had my first heart attack. I thought, “Now is the time to stop.” I tried, but I was unable to stop.  It would be another nine years before I had another rude awakening. I was taken to a hospital with severe angina and was struggling to breathe after a morphine injection. I prayed to my Higher Power to give me the opportunity to put some things right.  God answered my prayer and I decided to seek help. That is how I found Sexaholics Anonymous. 

What it is like now?

As I started working the programme, I realized that I was emotionally, spiritually, and physically bankrupt. I began working the Steps and, when I started Step Three, I got a sponsor. My sponsor was very patient with me - teaching me to be honest with myself, honest with God, and honest with others. He stressed the importance of working the Steps. “No pain, no gain,” he would say.

My breakthrough came as I was working Step Three:  “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  My problem was that I had to rethink what I understood about God.  My theology told me that God was a loving God, but I thought of Him as a harsh schoolmaster in the sky who would punish me if I did wrong. My natural father was a disciplinarian, so my concept of a loving God had not been reinforced by my natural father’s actions.

But as I worked Step Three, I knew that I needed to make this decision, and I was ready to trust God as a loving Father.  One day, while my wife and the children were asleep, I knelt down in the house so that I could verbalize my prayer. I asked the God of my understanding to take me by the hand, lead me wherever He wanted me to go, and be a father to me. I fully surrendered my will and my life to Him that night.  It seems a contradiction that by surrendering my will to another I would get freedom, but that is how it has worked for me.  I no longer have to make the decisions.  I just ask myself, “Is this the will of my Higher Power or is this a lust-based decision?”  This prayer helps me stay sober one moment at a time.

As I progressed through the programme and started my Fourth Step inventory, I found that I was confused. I was two people. On the inside, I was a hopeless lustaholic; on the outside I was a well-respected church member.  But, as I shared my Step Four with my sponsor, I was able to bring the inside out. When I came to SA, I had one secret that I never intended to tell anyone: that I had experimented with bestiality when I was a teenager.   Yet I was able to share this secret with my sponsor as part of Step Four.  Some time later, I was able to share the secret in a meeting. I knew that I needed to bring this out into the light, and when I did, I began to feel really free.

Bit by bit, I have surrendered my character defects and become closer to the person God intended me to be and as a result closer to the God of my understanding. Now others can see who I really am, warts and all.  Before, I was just a caricature of the person my Higher Power wanted me to be. Now the inside matches the outside. I am no longer the violent, angry lustaholic I once was.

Working the Steps has brought about healing for me, but only by working the programme on a day-to-day basis will I remain sober. To stay sober, I need the whole programme, including sponsoring others, participating in meetings, going to SA conventions, and working the Steps as best I know how.

Most of the men I sponsor have same-sex issues. I encourage all of them to write out their stories, and I am helped in my own recovery as they share their’s with me.  Sometimes, when I hear a sponsee share, a memory will return and I will need to write a fourth step inventory.   In this way, working with sponsees enhances my own programme.

Because I live in a remote location, attending SA conventions is important to me.  I live on an island some way from the mainland. There are only three SA members here. We have a face to face meeting every two weeks because of the long distance (140 kms round trip), and I have regular contact with other SA members by Skype, phone or email, and participate in two VoIP White Book Studies each week.  But to interact with more sexaholics, I regularly attend conventions on the mainland.  There, I find a concentrated focus on fellowship, working the programme and  listening to others as they share. I learn how others are working the Steps, and see how others are being set free from their addiction.  I see the progress that they are making, and I want that too! To be able to listen to so many other member’s stories is a privilege for me, and vital if I am to remain sober.

I also do a lot of reading.  I have read and re-read the Sexaholics Anonymous, Step into Action, and other programme material.  One article that has helped me immensely was published in Best of Essay, Practical Recovery Tools 1994-2003.  In the article, entitled “Lust Based Decisions”(p. 79), the author used the acronym “LBDs.”   I use this tool daily as I work my programme, and I remind my sponsees to “remember those LBDs.”

Today, as a result of this programme, I have serenity, joy, and peace.  I have many new friends in SA. I am able to have healthy relationships with men; I feel on equal terms with them. I can look the world in the eye and walk tall.  Today, when I see men in the street, I see them as people. I don’t sexualize them. But I had to admit to my own defects before I could surrender them to my Higher Power and ask Him to remove them. I had to be honest with myself first, then honest with my Higher Power and honest with others.  I do all of this moment by moment, one day at a time, dependant on God’s grace for each sober moment.

I began life thinking, “Lust is my friend and the God of my understanding is my enemy.” Now I know that “Lust is my enemy and the God of my understanding is my friend.” I now have healing in the emotional, spiritual, and physical areas of my life. I woke up one morning with a feeling of indescribable joy.  I had forgotten what it was like to experience joy and happiness.  This was a real spiritual experience - one I shall never forget!  I felt that my Higher Power was saying “This is what life is and can be.”

Because of what this programme has done for me, I live to share my story with others.  I want to carry the message to other sexaholics so that they can experience the same release from sexaholism that I have experienced. I found a new life, because someone carried the message to me. Now it is my turn to carry the message to others.

What it is like after 13 years of sobriety?

I have been sober all these years, thanks to God’s grace and the amazing recovery programme of Sexaholics Anonymous. I have been thinking about how I came to achieve this and what steps I took along the way. I know that God keeps me sober. I then started to think about sobriety itself.

What is sexual sobriety? Is it just a physical thing or is there more to it than that? As we read in the Sobriety Definition, “Physical sobriety is not an end in itself but a means toward an end - victory over the obsession and progress in recovery” (SA, 192). As the Solution says, “We saw that our problem was threefold: physical, emotional and spiritual. Healing had to come about in all three” (61). I believe that when I reached a point of healing in all three, I started to experience sexual sobriety in a true sense. Being emotionally and spiritually sober (as well as sexually sober) seemed to bring about something far deeper: a positive sobriety.

How did my sobriety begin?

When I acted out, it was always in secret. I was accountable to no one. But at my first SA meeting, I heard, ”Let’s take a minute to introduce ourselves by first name and state our length of sexual sobriety” (SA 197, #5). (I regret that in some meetings this sharing of sobriety dates is no longer practiced.) At my first meeting, I heard some members admit to years of sexual sobriety! Suddenly I was accountable to a group of people for my length of sobriety. As I listened to members share their experience, strength, and hope, I felt a new hope grow within me. I wanted so much what they had, and was eager to soak up their wisdom. Then what? I got a sponsor, and found that by working the Steps with him and regularly attending meetings, I began to progress in recovery. I learned a lot from meetings and from hearing people share their own experiences, including how they worked the Steps. I started to enjoy "progressive victory over the obsession in the looking and thinking,” as well as “the positive sobriety of acting out true union of persons” (SA 193). In sobriety, my relations with others are much improved.

For 50 years, I struggled with same-sex lusting, but today I can relate with men in a healthy way. Men are no longer lust objects. I do not expect to be lusted after. I can feel comfortable around men and encourage them in their endeavours. I also have a deeper emotional connection with my wife. I’ve come to realize the value of doing things that mean a lot to her, such as gardening, even when I don’t naturally care for those things. I have a deeper emotional connection with my four children and four grandchildren. Sponsoring others has helped me stay current on my SA journey.

Often, when a sponsee shares with me a part of his story, I am reminded of something in my own life that needs attention. When sponsees share their pain it resonates with me because I don’t want to be in that place again. I also need to work with my own sponsor so that I can benefit from wise counsel in all of my relationships. The most important thing is keeping a close relationship with my Higher Power. First I was accountable to the group, then later to my sponsor, and finally after I restored fellowship with my Higher Power, I was accountable to Him. He enables me to carry the message of hope to others who are still struggling and share with them my experience, strength, and hope. I have learned the importance of total surrender, and giving up the right to make decisions regarding my sexual behaviour. Today, I let my Higher Power take the driver’s seat in decision making. I find myself often asking “Is this my will or the will of God as I understand Him?” As the pressure of decision making is taken away, I experience serenity. My Higher Power gives me the courage, the wisdom, and the strength to walk in total surrender with Him so that I can make the right decisions.

I will be forever thankful to SA for offering me a new life, a new hope, a new emotional experience, and a new spiritual experience. I am thankful to the God of my understanding who keeps me sober. I am also thankful to those sober members who, by coming to meetings including VoIP meetings (which have played a very active role in my journey of late) and sharing their stories, carry the message of sobriety—the message that I needed so much and that I still need today!

I have to remind my self with a word of warning, lust is cunning, powerful and patient, so very patient!

Thanks for reading these words of old man who is still being held by the hand of the God of his understanding

It works if you work it, work it, don’t shirk it, you’re worth it!