My name is Bill, and I am a recovered sexaholic. My sobriety date is September 4, 1993, and for that I am never sufficiently grateful. When I arrived in SA, I was hopeless and suicidally depressed from over 35 years of untreated addiction.
I had my first drink of beer when I was 4 years old and was drinking for effect by the time I was 7. I recall that during this period I was fantasizing about a different life. I was born into a family riddled with alcoholism, sex addiction, drug addiction, and mental illness. As early as 3 or 4 years old, I felt inadequate, unworthy, alone, and afraid.
At age 9 or 10 a graphic image of pornography altered my feelings in a new and powerful way. From that moment, I began the futile search for the image, person, or experience that would give me that feeling, again. As my addiction progressed, I sought darker, more perverted pornography in an attempt to experience the original thrill.
At 15, I had sex with a girl for the first time. Around this time, I was prescribed amphetamines which I promptly began abusing. Her father was a nasty alcoholic, and this relationship started a pattern for me of finding vulnerable girls or women and seducing them into selfish sexual relationships, without regard for their welfare. This pattern continued into my 20’s when I met and married a woman who also had an alcoholic father. We were together for nearly 20 years during which I became an expert on lust in marriage and dependency relationships.
In 1990, at 38 years old, I got into AA and stopped drinking and drugging. I did not work the Steps because I knew that God hated me and was afraid that if I started praying, He would turn His attention back on me and punish me cruelly. When I stopped using chemicals, I relied more and more on lust to manage my pain.
Troubles with my wife increased and in May of 1993, I moved out of the house. I remember that during this time, I would decide that I had to stop masturbating, but before the day ended, I would fall again.
During the summer of 1993, I became severely depressed, and I began to have suicidal fantasies that were every bit as powerful as the sexual fantasies. I was in a very dangerous place. I knew I had lost the power of choice and control in my sexual behavior. There appeared to be only one way out.
In August of 1993, I was sitting in a meeting when a new person, Greg, started telling my story, cleverly disguised as his own. He concluded by sharing how he had been to treatment for his sexual addiction, as well as the alcohol and drugs, and that he had started attending meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous. Not wanting to overreact, I asked some professionals whether they thought I might qualify for SA. Their decision was unanimous, so the next time I saw Greg I asked him how I could attend a meeting of SA. He told me about a blue portable building behind a church in Nashville, and that there would be a meeting there at 9 am that Saturday.
That was Labor Day weekend and I had nowhere else to go, no one else to be with. I walked into my first SA meeting and saw my psychiatrist from 25 years before. There were several other members there who are still sober members of our Fellowship: David M, Lee T, Judson, Dave H, and Priscilla. As someone read the first sentence of “The Problem”, my eyes filled with tears – they were reading about me! I was home.
Over the next few weeks and months, I continued to attend meetings, asked a man to be my sponsor, and wrote my First Step and shared it with the group. I remember having the fear that after I shared my First Step there would be a special meeting and I would be told to leave. Instead, those present welcomed me to SA. But there was still this God problem. My depression got worse, and the fantasies of suicide became more immediate. This landed me in a psychiatric hospital.
The hospital had programs for sex addicts and other survivors of childhood trauma. I also met the chaplain who spent hours speaking with me about my conception of God. He helped me develop a tentative conception of a Power that might help me recover. When I made my Third Step decision, I surrendered to that Power – the one I had seen help other sexaholics and alcoholics recover.
Before I was discharged, one of the therapists, who was in recovery herself, told me that when I got home I needed to get a sponsor to take me through the Steps, and work them as if my life depended on it. She suggested that if I failed to do this, I would likely be dead within the year. I believe she was correct.
When I returned from the hospital, I spoke to my sponsor about working the Steps and discovered that he had never worked them with his sponsor. I was terrified and realized that God had brought me to the edge of recovery just so He could snatch it away. The bottom fell out of my depression, the fantasies returned with furious power, and I was in hopeless despair.
Fortunately, I was placed under the care of a psychiatrist who had experience with patients who had suicide fantasies like mine.
During this time, I was waiting for an AA meeting to start, wondering how much longer I could continue before I killed myself. A man I had seen in many meetings before, walked in and sat down next to me. I was a bit frightened of him because he had spoken of making amends to the IRS to whom he had owed $925,000. After the meeting was over, I asked him to show me how to work the Steps. I was aghast. Of all people to ask, I had asked this radical. Twenty-six years later, Rick is still my temporary sponsor.
As we worked the Steps, the feeling of futility and despair decreased. I was terrified that when I shared Step 5 with him that Rick would tell me to leave and never return. Instead, he listened to me and shared some of his similar experiences.
On one occasion suggesting a modification to the Steps which would better fit my unique situation. Rick listened patiently and told me, “Try that if you have to, and let me know how it works, but if you get drunk again don’t you dare tell anyone that the Program doesn’t work, because what you’re doing is not the Program in the book. It took me seconds to realize that if I did not follow his instructions I would likely die. “What do you suggest I do?” I asked. Since then I have followed his directions about the Program with great results.
When I began making my amends, I began to experience the promises that appear on pages 83 & 84 of the Big Book. I began to experience moments of happiness, serenity, and peace.
The first 5 years of my recovery brought many changes. My wife divorced me. I made friends with men in recovery, and then men and women in and out of the recovery fellowship. One of the women friends became my wife in January of 2000.
In 1999, I moved to Lafayette, LA. There were no SA meetings there, so I fell in with a group of AA’s. Here I experienced the power of working the Steps with a group. In 2000, I moved to Spartanburg, SC. The nearest SA group was an hour away. SAICO connected me with a member who lived between the two cities. He asked me to sponsor him. We worked the steps rapidly so that he could stay ahead of the 2 men he was sponsoring.
In 2001, I was asked to serve the Southeast Region as a delegate. This was my first experience with service at this level. I believe that I cannot keep what I have today if I do not pass it on.
I have travelled the world to carry the message I was so freely given. Over the years, I have watched the Fellowship take root in new places around the world. Thanks to zoom, I regularly meet with groups around the world. God has given me the fellowship I crave.
As Bill Wilson noted in his story, this program “…is a design for living that works in rough going.” (AA page 15). In addition to the divorce and job loss I mentioned earlier, I have had numerous family members pass away. In all of these losses, I have been able to be a loving and supportive relative and I have been held up by a loving and gracious Heavenly Father who has loved me all my life, even when I was unaware of His protection and presence.
As I approach the final chapters of my life, I am grateful for so many blessings. What I treasure most are the relationships that I have which are possible only because of my recovery. I am truly blessed, and I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me. And when my life is over, perhaps the most fitting epitaph will be: “He came to believe.”
Bill S., Tennessee, USA