When I stepped into my first SA meeting I was about twenty-five years old. When I think back on what I had experienced up to then and how I was feeling at the time, I am astonished at myself today; at how the program has changed me; the extent to which it has helped me. It’s a miracle, a miracle which is still unfolding.
I was less than six years old when I was visited – uninvited! – by lust. He was a rapist, nine years older than me; a relative who purported to be a friend. We were to play a game. And the game? Here, lust showed its real face, a face full of pain and abuse. I should have known it right away. LUST manipulated this person who was supposed to be my playmate, my protector and trusted relative into a deceiver, a betrayer, an aggressor, a violator who made me the victim of the worst kind of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I still remember the physical pain, and I will never forget the emotional consequences. This abuse continued for another nine years, bound helplessly to people who were themselves enslaved by lust.
But in the course of it all, lust enslaved me as well. How was I going to live with this uninvited slave-master?
Before reaching puberty, I started masturbation. I don’t remember if someone taught me how to do it or if I, myself, discovered it; but, in a world dominated by lust before I was even going to school, it was a natural progression. In the beginning I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. I was a child copying what the sick, abusing people around me were doing with me. But, I recognised how it acted on me, like a drug, numbing my feelings as a sexually abused little boy. It seems to me now that I used it back then to run away from all the severe negative feelings I had been feeling due to my abuse. The abuse was not only sexual; I was mocked, beaten, humiliated and threatened whenever I resisted my abusers. They started telling others and little by little, more and more of the older boys took advantage of me so that after a while nowhere felt safe, not my school, not by neighbourhood or even my home. I was running away from them as well as running away from myself and my feelings. In this situation masturbation seemed to be my only friend. I lived with it for hours, masturbating, until I didn’t feel anything anymore.
But slowly, slowly the remedy became a bigger problem. I had been using masturbation to numb away my feelings, my reality, my life. I did not like the reality of my life. Instead of facing it and doing something to change it, I ran from it. Maybe this was simply a child’s solution, being the age I was; but it was the wrong decision because it allowed others to continue abusing me while I started abusing myself also, acting out everyday, sometimes several times a day.
This made a bad situation much worse. I could have asked for help or have thought of something – anything – to help myself. Later on, I saw other children in the same situation as me who defended themselves. I don’t know how they were able to take care of themselves while I couldn’t; there must be some reason why. Anyway, I helped to ruin myself by my lust and by the lust of others.
For years, the abuse went on, by myself and by others – masturbation, sexual fantasies, pornography, my everyday behaviours. And the consequences came one by one – unable to make healthy connections with others; living in fear; terrible stress, anger and anxiety all the time; inability to concentrate on my studies; difficulties with family and others; memory loss; isolation, deep depression; these were all my experiences by age fifteen. This was my age too when the last of the sexual, emotional abuse episodes occurred.
By now, I was in a horrible mental, emotional and spiritual condition. I was thinking about suicide everyday, hoping every night to not see the next morning. I couldn’t finish highschool. I began to wonder if I had a problem, maybe an addiction. I began to wonder if, maybe, masturbation was a problem, maybe even the root cause of all my troubles; and maybe that, if I could stop masturbating, then all my problems would be solved. For the next ten years I did whatever I could to stop masturbating. I followed a variety of strict religious practices, exercises, books, therapy, set boundaries, asked religious leaders for help, took medication, etc, etc.
But none of these stopped me, not even for one week. I experienced ever more guilt, shame and depression as I crossed boundary after boundary, doing things I never could have imagined myself doing. And because of my religious beliefs I felt greater shame and assumed that I was the worst, most worthless person in the world. That was a really tough situation and I felt so helpless and frustrated that I began to numb myself with other things along with lust. Then I began to get nervous attacks and sometimes I attacked my family and other people. I heard others telling my parents that your son is crazy you need to do something about him. I blamed my family for my problems, claiming it was they who didn’t take care of me when I was a child and because of that, now I am here in this situation. I also used to blame society, culture, country, financial states – anyone and everything other than me.
After trying everything I could and failing, I decided that I must get married – my last chance to get myself out of my life, the way it was. I decided to marry the first girl I met and asked my family to help me to do so. I tried hard for two more years to marry a particular girl and when I did marry her, I got many of the things I had always dreamed of – love, independence, respect, new family, job, freedom, new community, new friends, hope,….
Then the day came when this, my last solution, failed just as my previous efforts had failed. I began lusting again, even more than before my marriage and I realised that, while everything on the outside had changed, I was the same on the inside.
Finally, I entered the program. I had come across SA on the internet before, but decided at the time that marriage was better; marriage would solve everything.
I can hardly describe how bad my life was by the time I entered the program. After almost 20 years of lust, I was dead to myself and to the world. I was craving lust-hits all the time, and raging and living in fear, in guilt and depression and in abusive, codependent relationships; comparing myself with others, consumed by negativity, always running from my responsibilities; always isolated.
At that first meeting, instead of feeling at home, I judged everyone there, seeing myself as different from them: they were able to share, to talk about their feelings; they were free of guilt and shame; but I was so full of shame and embarrassment that I couldn’t share about myself. I felt like I was the worst person there and that if they knew who I really was, they would kick me out. They seemed like kings compared to me. I attended meetings for the next few months, but couldn’t talk to others. I could not let them see my reality; I felt I was going to have to hide it for all of my life. Slowly then, little by little, I dared to think that maybe someday, maybe after a year or even more, I might be able to share something about myself.
The isolation and separation I felt at the time were really strong. It seemed impossible to talk about what I had experienced and what I had done. I felt so guilty about being sexually abused. I thought, if I tell them that I let others sexually abuse me, they won’t accept me.
In time, I was able to share about my past with my sponsor as he helped me through my first step. I was so surprised and relieved when he smiled after hearing my deepest secrets and said, you haven’t done anything that we haven’t done. He said that lust was our common problem; that lust made us do the things we did and that we are so much more, as people, than our lusting-selves. As someone with a deep religious faith, I used to regard myself as a sinful person who deserved the worst punishments. Because of this, I very often had nightmares and panic attacks. But my sponsor told me that we were powerless over lust; we could not control ourselves at the time because we did not have any control and that God understands this. It was amazing. That day, so much of my shame disappeared. It was the first miracle in SA.
But it wasn’t enough to keep me sober. What I didn’t understand at the time was that this disease, my disease, is deeper than I thought. I had been working my program just like a recovery or treatment plan – parallel to, but separate from my plans in life; it wasn’t my priority. I wasn’t making enough use of the tools; was not going to enough meetings, not making enough calls, not surrendering enough and doing enough step work; I hadn’t told everything in my first step, especially around my feelings about being abused. Another obstacle was my interpretation of the sobriety definition – I still used pornography and engaged in a lust-behaviours in my marriage. So you can guess what happened? I relapsed not once but several times over the course of the next three years.
The other thing that kept me from recovery was my resentments; severe negative feelings towards myself and others. These feelings were so intense that I never had peace, no serenity. I was in SA for about four years by now and felt that I wasn’t able to move on to the next level of recovery because of all my problems. Now I decided, OK, I worked this program but it’s not helping me any more. I left the programme, but, because there were no other options, I came back. I remember thinking at the time, OK, but don’t expect any more help from SA… maybe other members have thought like this before?
But God had better plans for me. Through one of the fellows who became my sponsor, He showed me a very practical way of working steps. After working the steps on my resentments and writing all of them out on paper, identifying my part in them, admitting my mistakes, my wrong decisions in the past, my resentments were replaced by acceptance of myself and others. And now another miracle happened – I was freed of the torment of those resentments and had a level of peace which I could never have imagined. I was able to forgive myself and those who abused me and came to accept all the things that happened in my life. After that, I began the next level of recovery. I got involved in a big workshop where a fellow spoke about the sobriety definition, sharpening my understanding of it. After the workshop, I got connected to the bigger, international SA fellowship which helped me to work the rest of the steps and find more peace, trust, love, acceptance, and a willingness to help people who experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. I can say with all my heart that I am rescued by God through SA; if I hadn’t found this program, this way of living, I can’t imagine how my life would be today with all the negative feelings, the resentment and hatred I had been feeling. Instead, God shows me every day now a new, exciting path in life which is way better than anything I could have imagined or have achieved on my own.
Life is so different today. And so am I. And, while I still have a long way to go in recovery, life is new, fresh, joyful and amazing for me…
I Thank God and SA.
Hamed T., Isfahan, Iran