Table of Contents
Tools of Recovery
- Phone calls
- Situational 1, 2, 3
- Step work
- Service Work
- God Box
- Daily Readers
- 3rd step prayer
- 7th step prayer
- 10th step inventory
- Walking in Nature
- Deep Breathing
- Gratitude list
“Because he lives inside his attitudes, the individual doesn’t see them; he sees only the physical activity and thinks he’s feeling guilty for that.” (White Book, page 40)
Reading this reflection at a recent meeting, led me to consider what my attitudes had been and how they have changed. It is true; I have a number of new attitudes. I want to share them.
- Sex is optional. I used to think that I had to have sex or I would be deprived. One needs food, water, shelter, hope and love. Without these essentials, a person will suffer. I considered sex to be on that list. I have since learned differently. It is an obvious instance of false reasoning on my part. There are many single people in the world who are apparently quite peaceful and serene. Lust for sex gave me delusions and rationalizations that I would be incomplete without it. Not true. The program literature states that sex is optional, and I have come to fully believe this to be true.
- Part of healthy living means to bring the inner anguish out and share it with trusted people. I have heard it in the meetings, “One is only as sick as one’s secrets,” and I have found this to be true also. I share my pain, triggers and temptations with my sponsor and other trusted members of SA. I am more at peace and serene. This does not mean that I have to be in a crowd and blabbering about. For me, it means that while I have my own quiet, meditation time with my Higher Power, I also share regularly with people in the program my deepest hurts and hopes.
- People are not a consumer product. I have to admit that I bought into the consumer society pretty completely. When I indulged pornography, I would say to myself, “Oh, that’s a good picture!” or “That’s good!”, and my pulse would race. I see now that what I thought was good, really wasn’t so. Pornography reduces a person to being an object. I objectified people, and treated them like objects I see for sale in the daily newspapers. I was treating people, including even my wife, as objects for pleasure. Aside from demeaning creation, my old attitude led me to loneliness and despair. Love and acceptance flow when people are treated equally. I am more open to that flow now.
- My Higher Power is in charge, not me. In isolation, I would order my life so I could control it. This meant backing off close relationships. I became more lonely. I acted out more to medicate the pain. I felt ashamed and awkward when I was with people, because of my acting out, and I acted out more. Where was the relief? I tried to control my circumstances more, and found that lust controlled me more. My disease became the center of my life, and my spirit was drying up and dying. I was way out of balance. When I started coming to meetings, got a sponsor, and began sobriety, my life began to be in balance. I started acting in ways that put my Higher Power in the right place, the center of my life. I am learning to “Let go, and let God.” I am learning to trust my Higher Power with the details of my life. My lust is no longer the center of my life, and I am much more happy and serene.
- It’s not all about me. This attitude is very close to the attitude described above. If my lust is no longer the center of my thoughts and my life, then I can think about the needs of others. Where before I was greedy and looking for ways to consume what I thought I needed, I am learning patience and trust with my needs and concern for the needs of others. I think about how what I share in meetings can help others. I think about what will strengthen the fellowship. I believe that as I surrender myself more deeply to healthy thoughts and healthy actions, I am able to help others more effectively. Service serves the fellowship and also helps me.
- Be sober in the moment. Living in the moment helps me to address the reality that surrounds me. If there are thoughts that are in my head that are lustful, I ask myself “What is going on here? Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Am I holding onto resentments? What is triggering my lust right now?” By becoming more aware of my inner feelings and how I am being triggered, I can respond with a phone call to a trusted SA member, or take a nap, or eat something, or exercise to relieve anger. Living in the moment, I can surrender resentments that pop into my consciousness. I can open myself up to the people and circumstance which my Higher Power has brought into my life. I can be sober one minute, one day at a time.
- Live a balanced life. I have to admit that I am still growing here. I look at my attitude toward work, and I say to myself “I can’t wait until I finish this work so I can enjoy myself.” This attitude is not quite right. Why can’t I enjoy each moment, even when I am working? Why can’t I take each activity and recognize the good in it for me, even if it’s work that doesn’t hold a favorite place in my esteem? I suspect that my attitude toward work is partly based on my old consumer’s attitude. “Play is good. Fun happens after you finish work. Responsibilities and commitments are obstacles to get out of the way so I can let go and do what I want.” I don’t think these attitudes are in my best interest anymore. Why should I regard the work/responsibility portion of my life, which might take from 50 to 80% of my waking time, as less fulfilling, worthwhile or fun than the time when I can do whatever I want? To have a more balanced view of my life, might mean that I enjoy my work more and not be anxious to get work over and done with. I know I need time to do whatever I want to do, but I also need to fulfill my commitments in a healthy way with a healthy attitude.
-Anonymous, St Louis
Getting There, Slowly
It is now many years since I have entered the fellowship of SA. It has been a lifeline for me. When I realized I was hooked on Internet pornography over 14 years ago, I thought I could stop on my own. Yes, I could stop for several days on my own will power, but then I would indulge lust for days afterwards and my obsession would increase. The ways I indulged lust branched out. I was getting bored with the “tame” stuff; I needed a stronger fix. Tolerance to the content of the indulgence kept me searching more new “material.” I was not getting better. I was getting worse. My life was out of control.
Finding the SA fellowship was a lifesaver. Literally. I was not happy. I was becoming suicidal. The value I put on my life decreased when I put a higher value on acting out. I put my addiction where my Higher Power should have been. I was making my life, “Not God” into The God.
Finally, I made a decision to get help. Why did I wait so long? I don’t know. I am sick; I have a disease. I am so grateful that at last I began looking for a place where I could get help. I made some inquiries and found an SA meeting in the same city where I lived. I went to my first meeting, heard the sharings of people with a similar addiction to lust, and made a decision to come back. It is now many years and many meetings later. I am becoming healthier. I didn’t get well at once. In fact, I don’t believe I will ever become completely well, but I am getting better. As I get further and further away from indulging lust, I feel more free and happy.
Will I ever be completely free from temptations? No, not while living in this culture. But I believe that if I address my inner attitudes and thinking, then the triggers within me are not being fed, and I can let the temptations pass me by. All of this is with the help of my Higher Power to whom I surrender my circumstances (temptations) and character defects (steps 6 and 7).
Here are some things that I do that really help support the decision to be sober. Being sober is a simple condition, but it is not easy to maintain. I am grateful for the following supports in the program, which help me.
- I practice an attitude of gratitude. Every evening before retiring I make a list of the things that happened that day for which I am grateful. There are so many things that I begin to forget the problems and negative things that happened that day. Indeed, the list helps me to remember what is most important in my life.
- Acceptance. An attitude of acceptance is something that I am continually learning. It is more challenging than gratitude because it needs trust in my Higher Power that things will get better. Every day it is a new challenge to believe this. However, listening to the sharings at meetings, and surrendering temptations and circumstances help me to grow in trust.
I accept my condition. I am sick. I need my Divine Physician. I cannot will myself to be better. I can accept that there are other people who are sick, and sometimes in their sickness they hurt me. I can forgive them. Perhaps I should avoid that person or circumstance that is hurting me, but I can pray for them that God bless them.
I can accept life on life’s terms. I can make allowances for the sins of others and forgive them. I can accept that my expectations of others, and myself, are unrealistic, and that it is better for me to let them go. There is a Higher Power, and I am not it. There is a Divine Plan, and I only have a glimpse. There is truth and there is wisdom, but I don’t have a “corner” on it and sometimes I have to listen and be open to others in order to receive it.
- Meetings: I go to two, three or four meetings a week. I prefer small meetings where I have a chance to share in depth. However, one of the meetings I attend almost always has 20 to 30 people in it. That meeting has a core group of seven or eight long-timers and they help to hold the group together as newcomers come and go. Other meetings are smaller than 10 people, and the commitment of the long-timers to keep coming back for the sake of the fellowship keeps these meetings from disintegrating.
- Phone calls. I call my sponsor as I work the steps and surrender temptations and character defects. When he is not available, I call someone else in the program. I have found that a weekly phone call at a regular time has been valuable for me. I can count on getting a call from a friend in the program every Sunday evening. This helps me keep my behavior and my emotions in the light of the fellowship.
When a phone call comes in, I drop what I am doing and go to a safe corner of the house and give it my whole attention. Phone calls from others have helped me to stay sober just as much as my phone calls out. In all the fellowship, I have to be honest. I choose not to hide anything. I do not want to give power to any indulgence of mine. I cannot hide my desires and expect to be well.
- Sponsors/sponsees. I have always had a sponsor since I entered the program. I like the practice of being responsible to someone for my behavior. I am absolutely honest when I talk to my sponsor. Even when it hurts my pride and puts me in a humiliating position, I feel I must be honest or I will deceive my Higher Power and myself. I cannot do otherwise.
In a similar way, I make an offer to sponsor newcomers. I was offered a sponsor at my first meeting and I believe in sponsorship. My sponsees have not always used me the way I would want them, but service is important to me and I want to make it available. Talking to sponsees doubles the conversations that I have with people in the program. I have found hope and encouragement as I share with sponsees. I listen and new ideas come. Working a good program is a cycle. I receive back from others what I freely give away.
- Computer/tablet filters. These have been very important to my sobriety. The first step I took toward sobriety was in downloading a free filter onto my computer to block the porn. I currently have a free filter, which has served me well for the past four years. My wife has the password, and I ask her to type it in on the rare times when it mis-categorizes a website. If I go filter-less or watch something a bit risky on TV, I do so with her in the room.
I use my computer regularly and when doing a project on it, I can become very frustrated. In such a situation, I have felt like an alcoholic who works in a bar. My computer filter helps me get over that feeling. If porn sites are blocked pretty well, then I am relaxed and can concentrate on the task at hand and not on how I can get around the filter to indulge lust.
- The Problem is Broad: I have a Lust for Sex, Food and Money. I have noticed that I can also indulge lust by overeating or overspending. Indulging lust produces a response in me that is pleasurable whether it is from porn, food or money. I have to be careful about each of these three. Each night before bed I ask myself whether I indulged lust sexually, whether I over-ate, or whether I spent more than $25 without checking with my wife. I am getting better at checking myself, surrendering the temptation, and making a phone call when I need to. I have grown in my awareness of “something going on inside me” and driving the desire to indulge lust; this awareness is progress for me.
- Trust: The most important component in my program is the one I tend to forget about, trust in my Higher Power. Too often, I turn to my Higher Power when I realize I am powerless, not, unfortunately, when I am trying to deal with life on my own terms under my own power. In the past, I trusted in my Higher Power when my options have run out. Now, I am learning to trust my Higher Power with the whole lot, my life, my dreams, my hopes, and my final end.
“Trust” is mentioned in the second half of the Serenity Prayer this way: “trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next.” I am praying this more often in my life now. I can sacrifice my agendas, my “false programs for happiness” if I trust that my Higher Power will take care of me.
In conclusion, there is no magic, no trick and no one action that keeps me sober. I have developed a number of strategies that help me when I feel triggered. Working a program in the SA fellowship has given me hope, some serenity and a “reasonably happy” life.
A Generational Connection
My father’s father, a philanderer, abandoned my father at the age of 3. Looking back it appears to me that my father used faith, goodness and addictive behavior to mask pain and stress.
My mother’s father, a philanderer, abandoned my mother at a young age. My mom recalls an incident in her teenage years while boarding a city bus. Her father was the driver of the bus. They recognized each other and her father ignored her and continued to flirt with one of the female passengers. My mother used faith, kindness, alcohol and tobacco to cope with the stress and trauma of life.
We were a typical 60’s Catholic family. My parents were having back to back children, 8 children in 11 years. My mother now admits she was extremely pissed at the pope in the 1960s. I am here today because of the church’s view on contraception. I was the 5th child of 8, born 6 years into the 11 year birthing frenzy.
Dad was rarely home, working long hours and traveling. I am pretty certain that dad was home 8 times during that 11 year span. All of the children are very similar in looks and medical history. For the record…my dad did not have a brother that was a mail man.
Ages 1 to 10: Childhood signs of addictive behavior
When I was 1 year old and mom was pregnant, she found I was happiest sitting in the high chair. I must have been very insistent on keeping the tray full at all times. By the age of three I was double the weight of others my age. Her hands were literally full, she was a tiny lady and pregnant, I was certainly too big to hold. I have reason to believe I did not get much human contact. I don’t know the impact that has on an infant, but I think it hurts. This is validated by the evidence that I was in my highchair in most family photographs during my toddler years. With one notable exception…at age 3 I starred in a family home movie when they privately took a movie of me hiding behind the garage eating everyone’s Easter candy.
I would continue this morbid weight gain until the eighth grade. I was 5’6” and weighed 210#. I was powerless over food. When mom asked me to clear the table I got very excited because to me that meant I got to literally eat the remaining food.
First Boundary crossed; (11 to 13 years of age) Sexually suggestive media – incestuous voyeurism – playing doctor – more explicit material…
I started to discover my sexuality at this age. At a terrible disadvantage to the other boys my age, I had had breast, my buster brown hair cut and tenor voice caused parents to think I was a girl. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. I was boy, now a man, in constant conflict within his own identity. In my mind I will always be that fat little boy. It may be possible I stopped maturing as a man at that time. I tend to beat myself up, look for pity and have a low self-esteem. Pity parties are toxic to me; please do not have pity on me.
I sought out lust hits by playing doctor with my sisters and the girl next door. I mastered the mirror under the door, peep hole etc. I enjoyed the rush of voyeurism.
I would groom the good looking well developed girls in 8th and 9th grade class to become my friend to be close to them and steal looks from the halter tops and short shorts. These relationships became intimate on an emotional level because often I became the shoulder to cry on when they shared details of how they were hurt by other boys. The emotional intimacy and physical closeness fed my sexual fantasies.
2nd boundary crossed; (14 to 16 years of age) establishing a stash via theft, trespassing and deception…violation of privacy as the neighborhood peeping tom…beginnings of drug and alcohol abuse.
My sister-hits were kind of creeping me out, so I hit the streets looking for open curtains and struck gold, and became powerless at stopping this activity even after getting caught by a neighbor. He was cool about it and I got the vibe he understood because often I would catch him looking from his house.
My sex drive was getting stronger and too impatient. I needed an immediate fix to satisfy the pain I was feeling inside. I began sneaking into a neighbor’s house to enjoy his older brother’s porn. It escalated to getting my own stash. Dad had a magazine under his bed…AWESOME. Out of respect I did not want to use his stash. I found a fort in the woods wallpapered with porn. I asked the owner of the fort where he got his material. Which lead to trespassing on the trash truck parking lot every Sunday evening? I stole so many magazines I could not fit any more into the file cabinet hidden under the basement stairs. I kept stealing them knowing I had no more room. I could not even let go of the older magazines to make room.
I joined the wrestling team; exercising and dieting became my new and more socially acceptable obsessions. I poured myself into this new behavior. Over the next four years I would lose 40-50 pounds in 60 days before each season to wrestle in a competitive weight class. Another benefit of wrestling was the adrenaline rush of fight or flight. On rare occasions, I would bit the opponent in fits of rage or desperation. INSANE BEHAVIOR!! Classmates feared me and the girls starting to notice me. I just wanted everyone to want me as a friend or a lover. I often would build trust with teachers and parents only to disrespect them as soon as they left the room.
Pause and Clarify, I know wrestling can seem opportunistic for same sex contact…But I was NOT trying to make friends or lovers on the wrestling mat!
3rd boundary crossed; (17-25years of age): objectification and abuse of girlfriend simultaneously using sex workers, one night stands and pornography at an attempt to satisfy and comfort myself
In 1979 my mom worked at very liberal organization that promoted birth control. I felt comfortable explaining to her that I wanted to have my first sexual encounter with my girl. She recommended I continue to deal with this urge myself. I speculate mom knew about my pornography stash. Probably the whole family knew. I was the only one that I was fooling. I now understood we were a family functioning under the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule. I stayed off the radar, began having sex with my girl, then branching out going to strip clubs, using prostitutes, maintaining a library of magazines and now videos.
I had to numb myself to suppress the conflict of being the good and bad simultaneously. Drugs and Alcohol became a daily activity. I was no longer able to be subtle about my behavior. I was proud to be a pot smoking freak, athletic and sexually active. My mom found my bag of weed and was ready to flush it down the toilet. I said, “Mom stop, I promise if you do not flush it, I will never smoke pot again. Believe me mom; Let me have my pot back, I can make a lot of money selling it at school!” Actually I do not remember this incident, I was probably HIGH! And the logic of this statement speaks of my insanity.
The greatest gift my father ever gave me was an album title ‘Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way’. As a seventeen year old boy needing love and respect from my father, I was hurt and confused. My father understood I would be battling pride my entire in life.
College did not happen due to my addictions but eventually the glamour of drugs and alcohol became fear of failure, so I got an education and a job
4th boundary crossed; (25 to 32 years of age) now married…infidelity via pornography, strip clubs, mentally undressing and stealing glances from any attractive woman in my space… this was creating an infinite number of images cut into the neuro pathways of my brain allowing me to have sex with self anywhere, anytime.
At 25 I got married to my high school sweetheart. I turned my life and my will over to her. She has zero tolerance to drugs and porn. But I knew marriage would end all desire to act out. It worked! I was sober for 24 hours! While my new bride lay in that Las Vegas hotel bed, I was in an X-rated movie house. Then later right in front of my bride I was rubbing necking at the poolside. Seven months later she found porn in our apartment. She threatened divorce. I vowed to keep the porn out of the house which began years of keeping a stash and acting out at work. After the children were all conceived my wife lost interest in sex as an expression of love. I began to believe she had sex as a tool to control me. Frequently I was depressed afterwards. During this period the wife found me privately masturbating several times. The wife’s response was to threaten divorce, fight for full custody of our children, and prohibit cable, computers and R-rated movies in her house. Our intimacy took a nose dive after she discovered me acting out several more times.
5th boundary crossed; (32 to 43 years of age) jeopardizing my employment and family security
At 42 and in a new job I got my first private office and my own PC. My father died. The intoxicating nature of grief was numbing me. I was just going through each day like a zombie. I spent many hours in my locked office browsing and masturbating. On business trips I would not sleep using the nights to seek out porn book stores and then masturbate to the point of hurting myself. While at home I would wake up in the middle of the night and walk in my underwear to my brother-in–law’s house and watch porn in his garage, masturbate and come home. The last time I did this was when the wife discovered me walking home in my underwear still aroused from the sexual experience. Looking back it appeared that I had experienced a moral death. I had hoped this is where I hit bottom, only time would tell.
Recovery First Time Around; 44-49 years
God lead me to SA, and I knew I was using SA recovery to improve my relationship with the wife. During the fifth year of a seemingly strong four years of sobriety, I came to the realization that I had been using the spouse as an object to masturbate. The spouse was using the promise of sex to manipulate me. Our relationship was becoming more toxic the healthier I became. The wife thrived when I was sick and allowed her to control my will and my life. I thought the best thing for our marriage was to start using home PC for porn and admitting guilt when questioned by the wife. Finally the wife had her sick husband back.
6th boundary crossed; it was clear I really did not desire sobriety… I stopped coming to SA meetings …
I was losing hope for our marriage and home. For years I have been leaving for work at 7am and returning at 11pm. Pride told me I was a hardworking man. I realized I did not want to be home, and working was better than going to a bar. I only came home to rest. I showed my children my love by service and sacrifice. What I did not realize due to my isolating life style is that my children missed me during these years. I was frequently having trouble sleeping next to the spouse. I would want intimacy and she would just get angry and leave the room. I moved to the unfinished basement to sleep so I would not wake with her by my side. My nights were full of despair and angry thoughts. I would either act out or pray to get back to sleep. Gradually prayer and meditation became my preferred choice over masturbation.
Her threat of divorce, shame and fear of abandonment would keep us together for many years. She rarely said I love you and eventually refused to wear a wedding ring. I woke up the morning of our 25th wedding anniversary and thought ‘Dammit I’m going to make this girl fall in love with me.” At dinner that night I told her I wanted to spend the next 25 years with her. By the look in her eyes I could feel she did not feel the same way.
The courage to change the things I can…
Earlier this year, I was powerless and my life was unmanageable. It was insane to continue this behavior to allow the wife to control my life. I came to the realization that no addiction could comfort me or restore my life to happiness. I decided the hamster wheel had stop spinning and I fell off. My Higher Power intervened and carried me through a series of events to give me the courage to move out.
In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do, I played a very big part in the destruction of my relationship with my spouse and children. I truly believe I walked out because I love my wife and children and wanted to stop hurting them. It did and it didn’t. It is just a different kind of hurt. I was hurting and going insane, worried I may hurt myself or worse, hurt someone else. Hurt people, hurt people. I think I was getting dangerously close to a new bottom. The insanity in my life was normal. I did not recognize the insanity until I moved out. I had no other choice but to stop.
Living on my own
I am always amazed at the many temptations lurking around every corner, it may be a single mouse click, a friendly smile etc. To cleanse me of these temptations I try to pray at night. I sleep better when I clear my head and space of unclean thoughts.
1st temptation; The week I first moved out a woman I lusted for years from my original church just happened to keep showing up at the new church I was now attending. Really God! Are you trying to FUNNY!
2nd temptation; the only ‘apartment for lease’ number I called led to an affordable studio. I signed a three month lease. Later to find that this apartment building houses mostly young, really cute post grads. That was not something I planned or expected. Just by chance an attractive woman a few years younger than I lives down the hall from my apartment. I did not want to connect with her but we often rode the elevator together. I would only look at her shoes and talk to her dog. Eventually and quite innocently we discover that we are both just beginning a trial separation from our spouses. Really God! Ha! Ha!
We established that we are both in need of a good friend but not looking to be in a relationship. Yeah Right! Me a sex addict…that’s like jumping into the furnace and expecting not to be burnt! At this point I knew without a doubt, I could not do this alone…I had to get my ASS back to SA!
God could and would if he were sought…The day after she and I established that we would be friends and promised to start doing things together she left town for a job interview. She got the job and has not been back since. AMAZING GRACE!!!
She called me the other day and invited me to come and visit. She was insistent. I said,” I am sorry but for now let’s just be pen pals!”
I am free to go my own way now and wisdom tells me that I will live a more fulfilling life if I live by the principles outlined in the 12 and 12.
I need to continually see myself as I really am and see others as they really are. I need continually to correct my wrong attitudes and actions with respect to the other people in my life. I need to learn how to restore relationships and find union. Thus, I need to learn a new habit—taking continual personal inventory.
When I think of traveling alone, it brings up a number of issues. The first thing that comes to mind is the fear it brings to my wife. If I were to be more honest and vulnerable, I would admit that it probably is the fear in me that I am projecting onto my wife. Then, all I have to remind myself of are the gifts and tools that recovery has given me to deal with these situations. I have been in recovery for 7+ years, and have been sober for over 8 years, thanks to God’s mercy, the 12 Steps of Sexaholics Anonymous, a good sponsor, and the SA fellowship. Some of the tools that I have used in the past for travelling safely include:
- First and foremost, creating a safety plan to share with my sponsor and my wife
- Contacting SA for meetings in the area I am travelling to
- Using phone meetings
- Reading Program literature
- Structured Prayer and Meditation, i.e. planning ahead and scheduling times as a minimum
- Working Steps 1-2-3 as necessary
- Request the TV to be removed when you make your reservation
- If the TV can’t be removed, request that the service be turned off
- If the service can’t be turned off, request that the parental controls be activated
- If the parental controls require a PIN, ask the bellman or housekeeper to put in a PIN
- Unplug the TV or turn it to the wall
- Telephone calls to fellowship members
- Structure – planned events for alone time
- Exercise-most hotels have exercise facilities, or just take a walk
- Arrange for an accountability partner to contact on a pre-arranged basis
- Don’t take a computer, or if you have to have one for work, leave it locked up at the front desk of the hotel, or leave it in the trunk of your car overnight or when not in use
- Eat properly, get plenty of rest
I am not always real eloquent with all the program wording I see and read in program literature, nor am I a “writer” per se. These are the tools that have worked for me in the past and I will continue to rely on for the future. Sobriety and recovery are a top priority in my life, and travelling is one of those easily-rationalized environments that could jeopardize the freedom and peace I am experiencing in recovery.
S-Anon / SA Retreat: October 25th 2014
Saturday, October 25th I attended the S-Anon / SA Retreat in St. Louis, MO. In my life, family is very meaningful and encouraging for healthy living that leads to solid recovery. In attending the Tuesday night meeting in St. Louis for the past year and a half I have experienced a real family of 18 brothers who accept and trust one another to share openly and honestly what we choose to share. I look forward to this Tuesday meeting every week. I learn so much from my brothers in recovery from lust addiction and am also able to share my experiences with them and this keeps me in recovery. I am grateful to all of them.
For me, attending to the S-Anon / SA Retreat was like going from a nuclear family to an extended family. There were 40 SA members and12 S-Anon members present – all part of my extended family. I felt gifted to meet new brothers and sisters during this retreat and learn from them how they were living out their recovery. Two SA speakers – Steve L. and Fred P. – shared their stories, experiences, strengths and hope. This was followed by two breakouts. I attended the breakouts on “Our Behavior and Attitude” and “Prayer and Forgiveness.”
In the afternoon Kathleen M. of S-Anon shared her story, experiences, strengths and hope. My heart was moved when she shared the physical, emotional and sexual abuse she experienced in her early life. I’m grateful that she found S-Anon and has been able to work through the pain and trauma of her abuse and is able to live a life full of meaning and joy.
This was my first experience with any S-Anon person and I found it good to hear from a woman who had suffered from the sexual abuse of men and others in their lives. It helped me to be more aware of how my wrong behaviors have caused pain and trauma to others. It motivated me to want to surrender my will and life to my Higher Power every day and not to be complacent in my recovery.
Another great blessing of the retreat was the opportunity to get to know other SA members in a more personal way. I was able to share quite a bit with two other SA members during the breaks and especially during lunch. This is not always so easily done during our weekly meetings because many of us don’t take time to socialize much after the meetings.
Staying On The Trail
My name is R_________, and I’m a grateful, recovering, sexaholic man. I am powerless over lust, and my life has, for a long time, been unmanageable. My sexual dysfunction began almost 40 years ago in 2nd or 3rd grade when I was sexually abused by boys who were my peers. I don’t remember much about that abuse, or how I felt, but I do know that it introduced me to oral sex and masturbation. By 4th or 5th grade and into Junior High, I had begun to abuse relatives and a neighborhood boy in a way similar to how I had been abused. I don’t think this was very often, but I don’t recall. Up until this time, most of my acting out was masturbation. There wasn’t much in the way of porn, only catalogs that I found around the house.
From Junior High into High School, I had occasional sexual encounters with girls, mostly just petting and masturbation. We were always in danger of being caught by parents, or by others. More than one of these encounters were in public. These encounters have stayed with me to this day in the form of idealized fantasies that I call upon often when having sex with my wife. Although I occasionally made attempts to not fantasize when with my wife, I needed those fantasies if I was going to perform; Impotence was my other option. My sex life with my wife was unmanageable and guilt producing and I was powerless to truly enjoy the sex.
My real introduction to pornography came sometime in late Elementary or early Junior High when a friend next door showed me his father’s porn stash. I was completely entrapped by it and I soon found myself breaking into their house when they were out and stealing the magazines. At some point I think they got wise and the friend suggested that perhaps I was doing this, but I denied it. When I was in high school, sometimes late at night I would go down to the corner store, sometimes with money stolen from my parents, and purchase a magazine or two. Breaking in or purchasing porn was a huge rush, and I’m sure that it contributed to the allure. For a long time I had this growing stash hidden under a drawer in my nightstand. I had another friend in high school whose father had a large porn video collection. I spent many nights at his house watching those videos.
My early obsession with porn can also be seen in other little details. I remember in late Elementary School, inspired by the trucker TV show BJ and The Bear, I drew a tricked out semi-tractor trailer with a record player and every thing! The trailer contained stacks and stacks of pornographic magazines. I also dreamed of being either a pornographer or a doctor so that I could see naked women on a regular basis. Up until Junior High, I don’t have any recollection of guilt associated with any of this or attempts to stop, though there probably was.
My first evidence of a guilty conscience came at age 12 when I insisted on being re-baptized. I grew up Methodist where I was baptized as an infant and never heard calls to “get saved”. A year later, I again got “saved” at a Billy Graham crusade. This pattern of attempting to get right with God continued and intensified in early High School. I often attended church with a Baptist friend of mine. Every head bowed, and every eye closed. I was the kid who very often had his hand in the air wanting to get saved (I see that hand). At this point I was tormented by my powerlessness over lust. I thought I wanted to love and serve God, but I clearly didn’t really mean it, because I was continuing to act out. I would get saved, make resolutions, do well for a little while, but then would be back with porn. At this time, I would get a magazine, spend an evening masturbating with it, and then I would destroy it and ask God’s forgiveness. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it but I couldn’t stop.
At a Christian college with a roommate, it was difficult to have privacy to masturbate with porn, but nonetheless, I would risk getting caught buying porn in the neighborhood and then masturbating with it in the dorm stairwell with only a bathrobe to hide me if anyone ventured out on the stairs. I was often obsessed with beautiful women. One or two I remember I couldn’t stop thinking about and lusting after though I tried my hardest. I remember one summer as a youth pastor, leaving town for a personal, private retreat, with every intention of spending the weekend reading the bible and praying. After arriving at the secluded cabin, I must have driven for 3 hours looking to find a store that sold pornography. Then I wasted the entire weekend acting out. Crazy. My journal covering much of my college years is highly depressing. It is filled with vows and resolutions and despair. Beginning in college, I began entering into a number of accountability relationships (mostly just for confessing my failures), made innumerable vows, and tried a number of other things like prayer, voluntary consequences, and considering the misery of the women stuck in the pornography industry that I was helping abuse, all in an attempt to overcome this obsession. Once in college I even fasted for 8 days! No solid food, just water and juice. I was determined to be free of this. I did have one extended period of freedom (a year or two at the end of high school/beginning of college (getting saved finally took!)), but most of my 45 years has been proof after proof of my powerlessness over lust.
The latest chapter of my life has continued to demonstrate my powerlessness. I got married to a wonderful woman. I didn’t marry her so that the acting out would stop, but I sure hoped it would. I told her before we married that I had struggled with porn, though not the full extent of my problem. A year after marriage she asked me if I had looked at porn and I confessed that I had. She was very deeply hurt and told me that if I continued to do it, she might have to divorce me. With the best of intentions, I made resolutions and vows and efforts at not lusting, but was soon acting out again despite the specter of divorce. It became my policy to lie to her any time she asked. I would continue to work and struggle (half-measures for sure), but I continued to fail in my efforts. When we moved to St. Louis, I confessed my struggle to my pastor, who kindly accepted me, but for 15 years unhelpfully ignored big warning signs as to the severity of the problem, and brought me into leadership. I knew what true help from him would look like and that he wasn’t giving it. I wanted him to help, but at the same time, I was afraid that he really would help, so I never pushed the issue.
So as we come to December of 2013, I am a devout Christian man and leader in my church, a husband of a wonderful woman, father of 4 wonderful children, and I have a good steady job. The fact that I could lose all of this because of my acting out could not stop me from my self- and other-destructive behavior. The only thing I thought would stop the madness was my death. I never contemplated suicide, but I occasionally prayed that God would kill me (though I was a bit anxious about dying in this state). Last year I began to have visions of myself as a pathetic old man, trying to hide his porn and erection from his nurses in the nursing home. In this vision my wife and kids had long left, despising me. This was the bottom of the pit of despair for me.
My life had the appearance of being well managed. I was a leader at work. I was a leader at church. I had a stable family, but it was a mirage. Everything was being tenuously held together by my well-practiced ability to hide and lie. Other than once by my mother in high school, I’ve never been caught acting out, but I was taking huge risks just hoping that God would not cause me to slip up and get caught. Acting out at home after everyone went to bed, or in the shower was risky, but the height of my folly can be seen in that I have for years acted out at work, often on a regular basis. I knew it was only a matter of time before I got caught, exposed, fired and ruined my family, reputation and the reputation of Christ.
Lust has been truly toxic for me: an allergy that makes me miserable, and something that I am powerless against. I’m allergic to poison ivy, have always been. When I was a kid, I loved scrambling through the forest. Trails were optional. All the cool stuff was off of the trail. And invariably, I would end up covered with poison ivy blisters. I remember a three or four day drive home returning from vacation where I was laid up in the back of the station wagon, unable to bend my arms because of poison ivy. In college, I discovered what poison ivy looks like. It’s everywhere! I couldn’t believe it. Now as a sane adult, when I walk through the forest, I travel on the trail, careful not to touch any of the green that reaches out for me. My life in the forest is not quite as interesting as before, but my life after the hike is wonderful. No poison ivy. Life is good. I have to live this way in the forest because poison ivy is toxic to me. One touch and misery is sure to follow. And I’ve discovered it is the same with lust. One or two second looks. One or two relatively tame images and I’m headed down the path to acting out and shame and misery, because I’m powerless over lust. God help me.