I came to my first SA meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Sunday, May 26, 1985. I was one of three newcomers at a meeting of 20 men and women. As newcomers we were required to give a brief First Step in the form of answering set questions. Before I came to the meeting, I threw out my pornography. I also threw out phone numbers and addresses of women I knew from other 12-Step fellowships. I stopped acting out sexually. I date my sexual sobriety to two years after I stopped acting out because of lust in dreams.
I was three years sober in Alcoholics Anonymous and actively participating in every aspect of the sober life, like working the Steps and sponsoring others. I had never addressed the issues of lust, sex, and dependency. My pursuit of pornography was secretive, obsessive, and progressive. A fellow-recovering alcoholic who Twelfth-Stepped me into SA, was a great help in keeping me focused on lust as the real problem. “SA is a whole new surrender,” he made clear.
I informed my partner I was a sexaholic and that I would have to pursue sex and lust recovery. It turned out that she was ready to work the S-Anon program. We travelled to Karlsruhe every Sunday together, she for her S-Anon meeting and me for SA.
The Karlsruhe group became my home group. At the time of joining I was an eleven-year resident of Germany and fluent in German. A small group of us started an English-speaking SA meeting, however, attendance was sporadic and those who wanted recovery wound up attending the Karlsruhe meetings.
What brought us together was the SA literature. SA members translated the SA Manual into German as well as loose literature that would later be published as Recovery Continues. In my Home Group we took seriously the caution in Step Two of the SA Manual that success in quitting other addictions seduced many of us into believing we had a head start on lust recovery, or were authorities on how the Program worked. I learned early that I have to work the first three Steps on a daily basis.
The immediate payoff was the SA meeting quality itself. Progress was slow, both in my personal recovery and in the growth of the fellowship, but I experienced patches of peace and serenity such as I had not experienced in other 12-Step rooms or thought possible for me. I worked the Steps again in SA, starting at the beginning.
SA was restoring me to sanity. My progress could be measured more by letting go of old ideas and attitudes than by gaining insight into the addiction, which I tried before I discovered surrender. After three months of sexual sobriety, I experienced another unexpected benefit—I quit smoking.
Usually members who filled service positions were those who would become long-time sober members. “I didn’t know this was part of working the Twelfth Step; I was doing it because I had to and wanted to.” Number 11 in the SA Manual (later to become # 13 in the 18-wheeler of the White Book).
We held “Information Meetings” at venues where other 12-Step meetings were held. We put Hotline numbers on bulletin boards at community centers and other appropriate venues. We held regular business meetings and built service committees in accordance with the Twelve Traditions.
At the Karlsruhe Sunday night meeting we usually had twenty members attending every week. S-Anon also held a meeting on Sunday night, at the same time and location as the SA meeting. After our meetings we had fellowship together at a local restaurant.
I asked a man I knew to be a sober SA member working the Steps to be my sponsor. We called each other. We shared Step work; we prayed together. I participated in check meetings, for myself and for others. Through the SA program, other 12-Step meetings became safe places to carry the SA message to those who might want it, much as the message had been carried to me.
I wrote a Step One and shared it with a group of sexaholics. I reworked my Eight Step and made additional amends. In time I would share the White Book with my mother and with siblings.
The ‘Onlies’ – Two Imperatives, Two Promises
Two “onlies” in the SA Manual written in 1984 were unchanged in the White Book in 1989; they’re in the section Overcoming Lust and Temptation. In essence, they say the same thing:
“Lust only yields to the slow, patient working of the program in the context of others who are doing the same.” SA 157
“Only by admitting lust’s power over me to others in the fellowship could I receive power over my lust.” SA 159.
To this lustaholic, these statements were – and still are – more promises that the program works. They tell me that I can literally change my mind. They tell me to put into practice the program I’ve been given and to stop practicing what doesn’t work. They could only have found their way into the pages having been practiced and found to work by lustaholics who carried the message to me. They tell me that the search is over and I am at a new start.
Lawrence M., Virginia, USA