[From Essay May 2018]
Shame And The Fourth Dimension
Saturday Night SA Speaker
Harvey A. from Nashville
SA/S-Anon International Conventions
San Antonio, TX 1/12 – 14/18
Hello. I feel a little awkward. I’m Mark. I’m a sexaholic from San Antonio. My recovery date is December 14th of 2007. This disease is life or death for me. I’m so grateful to be here and to get the honor of introducing our keynote speaker, the Saturday night speaker, tonight. It’s Harvey A from Nashville. [Applause] We asked Harvey to be our speaker about a year ago and it was really wonderful when he said he would do it. Now, if you don’t know Harvey, he’s been around a long time and sober a long time. I think he came in right after the war of 1812. [Laughter] It was really cool. We went from Harvey the six foot rabbit, which was the only Harvey we knew, to the Hollywood Harvey and then to hurricane Harvey. So, like Andrea said, we are glad 2017 is over. Although as a sponsee it was fun sending him snapchats of me with the headlines “Harvey Destroys Texas” and “Texas to Harvey, Get the Hell Out of Here!” You know, so that was fun.
Harvey was the first person we brought into San Antonio as I talked about that here today, and he has had such a dramatic effect on this city. It was funny. They sent me to pick up Harvey at the airport when he first came in and it would have been a little helpful if someone had given me some description of Harvey and Nancy. Like, they aren’t the most vertical people in our fellowship. [Laughter] But, they gave me nothing. So I am standing the airport, and I travel a lot, so the airport is awkward, and I have a year [of sobriety] maybe, and I’m doing the SA shuffle…looking at my shoes, at the seats…and down at my shoes again. People are running by and I’m uncomfortable. And, I have this sign that says Harvey and Nancy. Well I’m standing in such a way that the light makes the sign look just like a white piece of paper. So here comes Harvey and Nancy and they stand right next to me, unable to read the sign. I hear Harvey exclaim gruffly, “They’re not here.” He takes out his phone and says he’s got to call these people because they aren’t here. And I’m still doing the SA shuffle. I’m looking at my feet. And then Harvey starts doing the SA shuffle. He’s looking at his feet. And then Nancy takes a step over and she looks at him and then looks at me and she goes “Are you the Sexaholic?” [Laughter] So that was kind of funny, that’s how we met.
Harvey came and spoke and he showed us that you can laugh with this disease. It’s not miserable. You can be happy, joyous and free. You can laugh. You can be silly. You can say the word sex and you can have fun in your home and it was wonderful for me. So, of course I said to myself that I have to have this guy as my sponsor. Later, we are heading back to the airport and I was gearing up to ask this guy to sponsor me. And my friends were like, “Oh, do you know Harvey?” They said, “He sponsors like 412 people, from 16 countries, and two planets.” [Laughter] And I can’t believe it. So here we are in the car and I’m stumbling all over myself asking if he has a phone and if he ever uses it. And he says, you’re trying to ask me if I’ll sponsor you. And I said yes. And so that is how we started working together. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Now, I’m not going to do this next event, but one of the most beautiful things in my heart…because Nancy did it and she’s far prettier than I am, and I don’t want to do this again, because if was so beautiful when you did it Nancy, when we were in Chicago…but Nancy introduced Harvey and she said, “If you’ve been helped by Harvey, SA or S-Anon, his tapes, his CD’s, his phone calls, his meetings, just stand up.” And I swear, 95% of the room rose and clapped and it was just a beautiful thing. [Applause]
So, the last thing I want to say…I’m handicapped when it comes to emotions and I don’t know how you tell someone what they have done for you, how grateful you are for all the work, all my brain says is Starbucks gift card. [Laughter] You know, maybe twenty or twenty-five bucks. That’s all I can think of. So I said, no, I just need to look him in the eye and say Harvey I love you. I’m so grateful for every moment you have given me. This city is grateful for what you have done for us and this fellowship is grateful. Our speaker tonight everyone is Harvey A from Nashville. [Applause]
Okay everyone. Wow! I’m Harvey A., sexaholic from Nashville TN. I’ve been sexually sober thirty-three years and ten months. But there is someone in this room who has more sobriety and who is a pioneer of pioneers. To be a woman, and the oldest in sobriety basically, and to break these frontiers, Sylvia, would you stand? [Applause] And Gene, how about you stand up. [Applause] Gene is the man she took the contract out on to kill. Look at us! She’s my kinda woman! You’re my kinda people. But I’m going to get serious for a moment if possible. I’m going to read you a poem that’s 2500 years old.
A wife of noble character,
Who can find?
She is worth more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
And lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
All the days of her life.
Many women do noble things, but chose the present. You surpass them all. Nancy, would you get up here for a moment? [Applause]
Nancy: You’re so bad.
Harvey: And she’s good in bed too. [Laughter]
Harvey: Do you think I’m still not a sexaholic? I might be 78, but I’m not dead yet.
This is a woman I kept giving venereal diseases to. This is a woman who had to go through such embarrassment; who had to explain things to our children; who had to defend me when people would say they had heard about me, because I’m a low bottom drunk. And she stood by me, and she stands by me. Do you know what it takes for these women to live with guys like us or people like us? We can hardly live with ourselves, and yet these people somehow get through. If our marriage made it, anybodies marriage can make it. But, it’s based on sobriety. It’s based on sobriety. And it is based on the fact that I would take a bullet for my wife and not think twice, but she can never come before my program. My wife cannot come before my program; my children cannot come before my program; my religion cannot come before my program; my profession cannot come before my program; my God cannot come before my program. Because if I’m not sober, I cannot have any of those. When I am sober one day at a time, the miracle is we tend to keep all of them.
I want to tell you what I am really like with 33 years of sobriety. What am I really like? Well, one of my 700 sponsees said, “Well if you think he’s mean to you, you should see what I am to him!” Wow. Have you ever seen a conference run better than this? [Applause] Now I came down here to tie him up saying what he can’t do, but he follows simple suggestions. And if not, I yell at him. But let me tell you who I really am. One of my sponsees who lives in Uruguay was coming through New York on a trip he had and Nancy and I happened to be in New Jersey. This was some months ago. And so I said I would meet him at the Port of Authority in Manhattan. I said I’ll meet you for coffee. So I get on the bus to go to Manhattan and all I can think of is “I wonder if I have more sobriety than Roy had.” Can you imagine that starts obsessing me? [Laughter] I start looking up numbers and doing things. I get to meet the guy. We sit down and I say, “I can’t talk to you. You’ve got to help me figure out if I have more sobriety than Roy.” Thirty-three years and I’m obsessive! We start figuring and say, no that’s not right. Let’s do it again. And we are doing it over and over. And then I got the answer. And then I said, my God, what that man had, when I came in, he had seven years sobriety, and I still don’t have what he had with my thirty-three years. This man Roy was divinely inspired to have figured out the things and share the things he was able to discover with such minimal sobriety at the time. Unbelievable.
Now, why am I saying this? And mike C. brought some of this up today. Many of you don’t know that Roy wrote The Book. Roy is becoming a name that people hardly know. Roy K. was there alone. He paid for everything out of his pocket. It was in his garage for years. Now, did we get along well together? Well…can you imagine me with an authoritarian figure? [Laughter] I might be short, but man am I wild. That poor guy, when he had to deal with me and all the other newbies? But I don’t want us to forget him. What we owe him, but also what God could do. He could take us low-life sex addicts and talk through us. And do such miraculous things. It’s inconceivable. And each of you are Roys. Each of you are pioneers. We are breaking ground that people have never broken in non-religious areas. We’re doing and discovering things that people can’t believe. My sponsor would say, “Harvey if this program worked for you, it can work for a dog.” [Laughter]
So let me tell you how the program works, because I don’t want to talk about the first few Steps. This program is being crippled by us never getting beyond Step 3 and 4. The meetings being constantly about the problem, about acting out. First of all…our program isn’t even about acting out. Where does it say one thing about acting out in the Steps? Does it say one thing? We admitted we were powerless to pornography? No way! It doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say we are powerless over masturbation. It says we are powerless over lust, and so the fellowship never deals with it. It’s one of many subjects the fellowship doesn’t deal with. The fellowship doesn’t deal with the fact that most people in this room are not living a monastic life. You are having sex with your wives. It’s never spoken about. It’s like everyone are monks.
We have so many secrets in this fellowship that we never get beyond those first few Steps. We have these myths that inundate us. We are a very religious group of people. For whatever reason, this program attracts religious people. And so what happens? We make this another kind of religion! And what do we do? Oh, God will do. God does it all. Bull crap! God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. You know in AA they say if a recovering alcoholic takes a bottle of booze that is open and puts it up to his mouth God is so powerful that he can knock that bottle right out, but statistically he doesn’t do it. [Laughter] What the hell do we need Steps for if God is going to do it all? The first Step doesn’t even mention God. But you would never know it from the way that people are a lot of times in the program.
Let’s put it another way. In some avenues they call it the bread of shame. What’s the bread of shame? It’s kind of an unusual expression. What is the bread of shame? Well, picture this. A young kid is on a baseball team, junior league, and he is hitting a home run with every single pitch. Every pitch! He knocks that ball right out of the field. The crowd is cheering. He wins the game for them! They lift him up. They carry him around. The crowd is cheering and he feels so wonderful. And then the next day, he finds that his father paid the pitcher to send him only good pitches and he paid the crowd to cheer and he goes into depression and shame. If God does all this for us, not that he can’t, there is nothing else but God, but if he doesn’t give us free will, we just sit on our ass. This program is not easy to work. And I said it the other night at a professional meeting. We are asking the impossible. There is nothing that feels better than an orgasm. I mean what can you do? Why? This God in his infinite wisdom knew the world needs to survive so he figured this unbelievable thing out. [Laughter] What did he figure out? As I said the other night, just picture this. Do you think a cave man would go out all day with a stick and a rock attached to it; go beat down a tiger, and bring home the food to his children, if he wasn’t getting some from his wife that night? [Laughter] Come on. Tell me something else. I often say to my wife, Honey, what an invention! How could God have thought of something this strange that feels so good. The whole thing is kind of strange. But it lets the world continue. Without it, and just like the 12 and 12 says, these are just natural instincts that have gone haywire. We are allergic to lust. We are not normal people. Normal people can lust. We can’t lust normally. That’s how the cookie crumbles.
What’s another myth? There is only one way to work this program. Bull! Where in the heck did that message come from? We do not have cookie cutter sobriety. You can’t just fit everything for different people. Yes, we have the sobriety definition. We have Steps. We have God as we understand him. We have fellowship. We have sponsorship. But I wish you well if you think you can get a bunch of drunks to do what you think they should do. First of all, how the heck can I say “should do?” That’s a shame word. [Speaking to moderator off stage] I’ve got five minutes. No way. [Laughter] I’m 78 years old, this might be it, Buddy. [Laughter] So if you have to take a bathroom break. Go for it. You’re lucky. Because I’m 78, I’m going to need a bathroom break pretty soon. So it can’t go on indefinitely, so don’t panic. Don’t let yourself go into shame. Shame is our enemy. Shame is giving the first Step the middle finger. Shame is saying, “I’m bad getting good” not “[I’m] sick getting well.” Every time you go into shame, you are blocking that. You are without power. And there is nothing that helps shame except to do it again.
In Nashville we always know who my sponsees are because we will be sitting in the room because we do this very special thing for shame. It’s just nasty energy that we pick up. We brush it off. I learned it from a massage therapist. What can I tell you? [Laughter] There are good things you can learn from everybody. It really works. You brush that crap off and then you say, “Thank you God for reminding me I’m still sick.” The people that lose their sobriety in the program are the people who do very well and then think they are cured. Every time you are reminded that you are not cured yet, you get another gift. So you don’t disappear from the program because I need constant meditation.
Now, I’m dyslexic. Anybody who wants to do big book study with me, it’s very painful for me to even read too much. My program is based on the oral tradition, what one sponsor says to another. And so this afternoon, my wife had to almost carry me out of here because I was weeping so much from Will’s story. Why? Will didn’t know it, and I told him afterwards. [It was] because he was quoting word for word what my sponsor taught me 30 years ago. I’ll give you an example. Nancy and I were in Portugal some years ago and I really wanted a meeting. And so we went into Lisbon to find an English speaking meeting. It wasn’t there anymore and I stopped someone on the street and they said the next day there was one. So we went back by train the next day and the church was closed and I just surrendered and I stood out there and I did the Our Father and I made my own tiny meeting and all of a sudden someone walks by and I asked if they knew where there was an AA or an NA meeting. And he said, “Wait.” And he goes across the street into a bar and he brings some people out [Laughter] and says oh they are restoring the church so we are meeting in the bar! [Laughter] So they decided to have a meeting in the portico of the church, on the steps. We sat on the floor and one guy was so angry. He said, “I don’t know English!” Because they had converted it back to a Portuguese speaking meeting and he was frustrated. And someone else says to him, “If you were trying to pick up some English speaking woman in a bar, you’d speak English wouldn’t you?” So we had the meeting and at the end of the meeting I shared something my sponsor Cherry had taught me about the sixth and seventh Step. He said, “See Harvey this cancer here [pats his chest], yes God remove it, remove it, and then see this cancer here, no God, leave it alone. I’m not ready to have it removed.” No. the seventh Step says, all of it. But many of the things that Will was saying were many of [Cherry’s] things. So we leave the meeting and we are walking up the hill and I started to cry, and I said Nancy, “Cherry, my sponsor,” who had died like 10 years before,”Cherry my sponsor is now living in Portugal.” The eleventh Step prayer, “we die to everlasting life in this program. We live forever.” I cried because Cherry was now living in San Antonio. This is the program. This is the fourth dimension, being catapulted into a fourth dimension. What is this stuff? We never talk about it. How many meetings have been about the fourth dimension or brought it up today in a meeting?
Fourth dimension. I’ll tell you fourth dimension. We were driving home from Atlanta a week or so ago and I get a call from Sweden and this guy says I’m from Iran. Do I have permission to translate your talk in Poland that I’ve already translated? [Laughter] Which means, possibly and probably, it’s nothing like I really said. But they have no input in translation. He said I’m translating it into Farsi. So, a country that is having difficulty with Jews is using a talk a Jew made to translate into Farsi. If that’s not the fourth dimension, what the heck is? [Laughter][Applause]
For many people in this room, your lives are involved in waiting for the second coming. For many people of other religions they are waiting for a first coming. But what is that coming? [It’s] the fourth dimension, where the Iranians are with the Jews. The lion and the lamb are lying together. How is that possible? We are living it in this program through anonymity. We have no whites, blacks, Asians, Jews, Christians, women, men, Muslims, we just have sick drunks. [Laughter] [Applause] We connect through our illness. We only have our story. We share our experience, strength and hope. I’m very appreciative that you asked me to speak. But you know, it was all rigged because I probably would have fired him as a sponsee if he had asked someone else. So if any old timers were to ask, you now know why; it’s nothing about you personally. [Let it be] said, I blackmailed him.
So I want to end with the way I always end…that Cherry, and I’ve added some things that Cherry would tell me and ask me, but the first thing, someone else said. There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. If you don’t have that God, get him. That’s the one I had to borrow and became mine. Let’s do it in unison. [group repeats] “There is nothing that you could do to make God stop loving you.” The other thing would be, that my sponsor would say, “Do you think God loved you when you were doing all those low-life things that you did?” And let me tell you, I abused my wife in frequency. I was a chronic obsessive masturbator and I was promiscuous with men, women, anything that walked and then one day my wife yelled out…”and even if they didn’t walk!” [Laughter]…and he would say, do you think God loved you when you were doing all those low-life things you did? And finally I’d squeak out, “yeah, I guess so.” And he’d say, “Well then if he loved you then, he must be hog ass wild about you now!” [Laughter]
Now there is no way I’m going to end this without my occasional endings. That’s not SA approved. So I want everyone to get up. And we are going to sing “Zippity Do Da!” Are you ready? Who knows all the words? [Singing][Applause]