[From Essay, December 2020] My name is Hans, and I am a grateful recovering sexaholic. My sobriety date is the 10th of July, 2008, the Akron SA-S-ANON International Convention. That is when I accepted that I was powerless and unable to manage my life. My Higher Power, through this program, makes it possible for me to live.

I had left my second marriage of 22 years and resumed a relationship with a woman I had been in love with prior to my marriage – and with whom I had a daughter. I broke my sobriety of more than 20 years. All this was too much for me. I felt overwhelmed, confused, chaotic, and full of fear. I was struggling for clarity and for direction, and I hoped I would find it in Akron. I called a check meeting with a group of longtime sober members and told them what I had done. As a result, I broke off the relationship, renewed my sobriety commitment – and restarted my program from zero.

To surrender this dream-love was painful, and at the same time a relief. I felt that I did not have the strength and lifepower to break up my program, my marriage, and my Higher Power! Clearly I had been told from HP that I had all freedom to do with my life whatever I wanted, every day, including living with my “princess”-woman. But HP would NOT be with me on this path, I was told!

Accepting this truth was painful as I had a deep desire, well-hidden in my heart, to live with that woman, sometime, somehow. But there was a moment of honesty and clarity that this “love” was really an addictive move, an illness, not able to carry me. And without program and HP there was no way to continue! So I turned home from Akron, and I turned back to my own life and wife.

Soon I realized how healthy it was in my program to experience this relapse. Being free from the icon-like reputation of “over 20 years sober” in my fellowship was good for my humility! After some time, people started addressing me and I gained sponsees, where before I hardly had any lasting sponsee relationship.

I did not realize how my acting out had poisoned my soul. A kind of double feeling developed in me: A deep desire for a true love, a loving union, for family life, house and kids, as I had it experienced at home. On the other hand, an ill and poisoned desire to right away have sex with women, without any sense for personal relation, love or respect. I even acted clandestinely touching a woman on the metro. I felt shame, I knew how wrong I was, but I was a prey of excitement and lust .

God had no relevance in my life. I was agnostic, had no spiritual experience or prayer routine. I tried to make my way through life on my own and never asked for help. I saw my siblings make their way so I needed to find mine, too, on my own. “I am from an intelligent family, I will make my way” – hidden arrogance!

I was acting out for roughly 20 years before I came to SA in 1987 with sexual fantasies, affairs, prostitutes, and masturbation. As a young fellow, I had a deep desire to be relieved from loneliness by a beautiful princess-women and to experience sexuality. My fantasies were overwhelming, but nobody had told me that I must be patient and wait for the right person to come! I was shy, fearful and felt inferior and inappropriate, and I was deeply afraid that no girl would want me. So I remained alone with my desires.

I was always longing for “the princess” who would fill my life. I met a girl at university and we soon had sex. I did not even love her, my desire for finally having the sexual experience was so overwhelming. She got pregnant almost immediately and I felt trapped – marriage, spouse, child, family. Settled! But I was 22 and I was crying for experiencing life! Only now I accept that my dreams had not been for her, but for sex with her. Too late!

We married three years later, and now I could be happy because she was pretty, intelligent, practical, and she loved me. We got three more boys, but I never was happy because she was not “my princess”! My dream remained unfulfilled, I never experienced peace. And there was my desire for sex, and hidden lust. I was married and I wanted legitimate sex, three times a day! My wife withdrew more and more. I developed terrible frustration, and started with prostitutes and affairs, blaming my wife.

I could not admit my part, always blaming my wife. I had affairs, even at work; some women took abortions because of me. I felt evil and unworthy, but I could not stop. I contracted a venereal disease and took a girl from my work to see the doctor clandestinely. I felt terrible for infidelity and immorality. The infection quickly was gone but the side-effects started, pain over pain. I had ruined my health, to never gain it back in fullness.

Then I met my “princess, fell in deep love, and I felt loved as I always had imagined! In a painful process I left my wife, our kids, our home to be the “prince of my princess”. But I was 40 now with responsibilities, not 20 and independent and, of course, I loved my wife and kids. My “princess” had her life too, and we did not match. She got pregnant, she left and married somebody else. This was the end of my “princess” desire for many years – a void illusion, my life torn to pieces.

I fell deep into depression. A deep spiritual hunger arose in me. Alone in my small apartment I realized how my life, first by my desire for love, then by the hunt for lust and sexuality, had developed in a chain of catastrophes. Where was a way out? I plunged into a new world of spiritual life, different from all what I had chased for so far.

The answer came some days later in August 1982. I had a spiritual experience like that written in the Big Book. A figure of light standing in my room, an incredible power, a stream of love radiated from Him to me, a love I had never experienced. It flowed over me and streamed into me. It filled the deep abyss of all my longings, desires, wishes. It filled me and made me whole. I knew who He was. All pain and fear vanished from me. I overflowed with love. He was – and still is – the end and the aim of all my lifelong desires.

I was newly born, in love and in life. Depression vanished in a moment, to never come back. My quest for the source of life came to its end; HE was my life. HE filled all, nothing in me remained empty. The many times since then I have experienced His presence, His love, His mercy and grace, still this day remains the most important in my life, my spiritual birth. And everything in my life became new, came into a new order.

I had, from this day on, a Higher Power. I was no more alone in the universe! I had a God who was connected with me, was around me, was in me, loved me, was responsible for me! An absolutely new and strange feeling. And in this new feeling I realized what I had made my “higher power’: Women and sexuality, lust and greed, arrogance and inferiority. My life received sense and aim. My HP is the sense and the aim, not me. Even with this spiritual experience still I stumbled.

He brought me in community with other people who love Him and He gave me a new wife who stuck with my lapse in 2008. We are now married over 40 years. He directed me into the program through her. She found the White Book, and reading Roy’s story revealed to me my life’s disaster: “Lust” was the key and meeting soon Roy in person was my HP’s grace, a great privilege.

Having now found what I was suffering from, I understood that He had made me sober. But now my task was to acquire and to preserve this sobriety. Sobriety from acting out, I was given from the first day. But the impact of lust within me, “acting in” as a friend called it, the invisible monster, this is and has to be my work. Listening to others in the program, inventorying my disease, inventorying my character defects, learning to surrender my glances, learning to surrender my curiosity from my childhood, for women and their bodies, and for the sexuality of others, a never-ending task.

This is a disease, and I am powerless over my life and lust. “This life is not designed to be manageable by me and my strength”, I heard in a meeting. And only for today! Of course at first I wanted recovery at once forever and in totality! But this is not the gift of the Program. I need to do my work, each day, the results coming from Him.

Nothing on earth, in this life, is really mine. It is all loan from Him. But He is mine – if I want Him. The program makes life a daily challenge, never ending, infinite as He is infinite. In my disease, life was chaos. The Program sets an order. Opportunity for mistakes is as much as ever but they can be corrected and may not ruin me, as before. Life is much more simple.

Hans L., Germany