[Originally published in edited form in Essay September 2017]

Good morning recovery family. My name is Esty L from Miami and I am a recovering sexaholic. My sobriety date is February 26, 2012 for which I am never sufficiently grateful. I am the 4th of 15 children. I grew up in a loving home with two devoted parents who did the best they could to provide me with a stable home. I lived with the illusion that I had the perfect home and upbringing and that my way of doing things were the best and the ultimate. Unfortunately the disease of codependency and addiction flourished in my home which I only learnt to identify in recovery. As a young girl I sought to escape and numb out from any pain or anxiety that I felt. My first escape was reading, I would lose myself in books. Food and lust followed.

During puberty, I started masturbating compulsively and became obsessed with sex and boy fantasies. These drugs proved to be just the right thing to numb me and help me avoid feeling my feelings or developing intimate relationships. I felt unlikeable on a very deep level and lust was the perfect solution to my social anxieties. I wasted days and weeks of my adolescence pursuing my crushes and fantasizing about them. I invested most of my energy and time to my make believe world and neglected working on deepening my friendships with my girlfriends in my all-girls school. One particular form of acting out was going to the synagogue to satisfy my lust. I belonged to an ultra-orthodox synagogue and ladies would pray separately in the women’s gallery which was high above the men’s gallery overlooking the men. I stood for hours watching the men just to catch one glimpse for a moment of my male cousin whom I had a serious crush on. I would stalk him when he was in my home despite the fact that I knew that in my faith tradition, it was not considered appropriate for girls and boys to have relationships. I knew there was something wrong with me but I didn’t have a name or a solution for it. I did not feel I had anyone to discuss my obsessions with and so I continued going deeper and deeper into my head and fantasies.

My disease only progressed and my lust grew. At 18 I went to Israel to an all-girls seminary for a year. I developed a friendship with a girl I had never met before. The relationship quickly turned unhealthy and we became sexual. I was in such deep denial of my disease that I would act out with her on busses thinking that nobody noticed and I was doing a good job hiding. My sexual orientation is straight yet my lust was so desperate that it was content objectifying my girlfriends just to satisfy itself. I clearly felt crazy! To offset and quiet my guilty feelings I became more into my religious zeal and would spend hours studying the bible in my room isolating from people and feeling better than others.

Not surprisingly, I met and married another sexaholic. We spent our first year together trying to fill our lust and pleasures. We knew how to enjoy lust but sex itself scared both of us. We were both love cripples with very little capacity for true intimacy and closeness. Needless to say we had a tumultuous and rocky marriage for the next 6 years. During that time my resentment and dislike grew toward my husband together with my fantasies of being married to other men who seemed to have more appeal and in my opinion more suitable marriage partners. I fantasized about hooking up with other married men. Sex became less and less frequent and I avoided being together with my husband. The more he pursued me the more I retreated within and avoided being together. Masturbation continued but overall I became more sexually anorexic.

By g-ds grace and miracle, my husband found SA and got sober shortly before our 4th child was born. G-d started working His magic in our lives. I got into Sanon and started working with a sponsor. She opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. I am forever indebted to her. I remember saying to her that I have my own sexual issues and dysfunctional past. I also remember writing in my step work that I was angry at my husband for removing the lust in our marriage. Who did he think he was??? I surely did not agree or sign up for that?? Oh and I also loved reading his SA books especially the stories. Let’s just say it wasn’t for the recovery aspect. About 6 months into sanon I hit my SA bottom thanks to my sanon sponsor. I had a very difficult morning with my son and went to masturbate and typed in porn on my phone. Something I had never done before. I called my sponsor in a panic and could not bring myself to tell her what I typed in my phone. I was so full of shame. She lovingly told me she recommends I call some women in SA. That started my journey in SA and a new life for me. After calling a few women in SA I felt that I had come home. After 28 years old I finally stopped running from myself and living in shame and pain. I felt a deep connection with my SA girlfriends. I was able to for the first time share ALL of me, even my most shameful sexual secrets. I had nothing more to hide and they certainly didn’t judge me since some of their stories made me feel healthy.

Step 1 for me was being willing to admit that my flirting with men was not as innocent as I’d like to think it was. Needing men’s approval is a form of lust I am prone to. Developing new crushes and fantasizing about hooking up with married men has also been something I need to admit powerlessness and seek G-ds help and power. Which brings me to steps 2 and 3. I needed to create a new G-d and let go of any negative or apathetic feelings I had toward G-d. If I was truly going to surrender myself to HIM and seek his help, I need to know and feel that he is a loving, caring and forgiving Father. He likes me with my imperfections and does not seek perfection from me. He allows me to learn from my mistakes and is patient and kind in the process. I need to feel his unconditional love at all times. If G-d could love me then I surely can do the same and love myself. Steps 4-7 has been a truly eye-opening and life changing process for me. Seeing my character defects such as giving unsolicited advice, acting like other people’s higher power, and not being assertive and honest with people, has helped me start living a more enjoyable and saner life. Sharing my character defects, resentments, fears and past sexual behavior with my sponsor was very healing and freeing. I did not feel judged at all. I only felt love and acceptance. Making my amends was difficult but life changing. For example, one my friends I had to make amends for constantly going into her fridge and eating her food without permission. My sponsor had me ask her what foods she would like I buy her. Going to the store to buy apples and peanut butter was the best way I could learn my lesson and think ten times before I reach for food somewhere. Seeing my part in my marriage conflicts was also very helpful in changing the negative dance and patterns we had developed together. Steps 10 and 11 keep me grounded and connected with those around me and my relationship with my Higher Power. I try not to let a resentment fester for too long without doing a mini step 4 to see my part and be free of the resentment. Today I’d much rather give a resentment then get one. I have become selfish as far as my sobriety is concerned. Staying sober is my biggest priority before and above all else. This year I had the privilege to do some 12 step work and was part of a committee of women who organized the first ever women’s convention. It was a real learning experience and I felt truly uplifted seeing what it had accomplished for isolated SA women around the globe. We bonded together and supported each other in our journeys, mostly lonely ones as most of us are the only women in our SA meetings.

It has not been an easy journey but it certainly has been rewarding. Learning how to have lust – free sex has been one of my greatest challenges. An experienced member told me when I shared with her that I wished I could just not have sex anymore, that I needed to learn how to walk the tiger. Sex was a tiger for me but as a married women I couldn’t just cut it out, I had to learn how to take it for a walk. I learnt to pray before having sex to give up my selfish, self-centered pleasures for the whole of the union and the good for both of us. I prayed to focus on giving rather than receiving pleasure and most importantly to enjoy the man that G-d has put in my life. Another important aspect in my recovery from sex addiction was my unhealthy relationship with sex. I equated sex with being evil and bad and something I needed to atone for and feel guilty for any sexual pleasure or enjoyment. I had to learn to see sexual pleasure as g-d given and special when used in the right place, right time and right person. I needed to let go of my body shame and any negative messages that I told myself for so many years. Learning to embrace my sexuality has been a big gift of sobriety.

Prior to coming into recovery I carried a lot of resentment toward my mother and I did not enjoy her company or have any desire to spend time with her. I was angry and fearful of her at the same time. I learnt how to reset the dance and cut the umbilical cord that was stopping me from being an independent person with choices and opinions of my own. I had to set some boundaries regarding calling her as often as she wanted. Speaking my truth to her even if it was not what she wanted to hear was not easy for me. My relationship with her still proves to be the most challenging for me as I set her up to be my higher power and want her to be pleased with me 100% of the time. Over all, my relationship with my mother has improved tremendously, and most of the time today I look forward to calling her and spending time in her company. I practice taking from her graciously and opening myself up to feel her love for me. I’ve come to see that for the most part I was the one shutting down to her and choosing to be resentful and unappreciative. I try to be sensitive to her and avoid bringing up topics that she does not enjoy discussing.

Parenting is a huge project for my recovery work. I struggle with rage and need the support of other rageaholics to surrender my right to show anger. Raging is another form of acting out which I am powerless over. I need’s G-ds help daily to treat my family members with the respect and dignity they deserve. I am not perfect but getting better every day. My children know I will apologize if I cross their boundaries and will tell me if they feel I have hurt them. I work hard making my children my utmost priority in life and put them before anyone else I’d like to people please.

In regards to Finance. Before recovery I did not take any responsibility for carrying the burden of our financial status on my shoulders. I left it all for my husband to worry about. I worked very part time and did not concern myself with any details of our financial status. Thankfully I have made great progress in this area and that is not the case anymore. I pursued a career in what I was educated in and sought employment. This past year I worked full time with a competitive salary to my husband and work together with him on our monthly budget. I am starting to see the promises come true in every aspect of my life. Most of all, I have a G-d that I can depend on to pull me through challenging times and give my life direction.

Today I am blessed to have my husband together with me on my SA journey. We have a marriage that has its hard days but overall we have a connection and friendship that I never dreamed possible. He is the love of my life and the hottest guy I know and want to know. My house is mostly clean and I am able to pursue my career and work full time. Something I never thought I could. My relationships with others has improved tremendously and my capacity to make and keep friendships have grown.

My journey could not have been possible without the help of my sponsors. I’d like to name them. Nechama Dina, Nancy, Sylvia, Greta and Priscilla. I cannot thank you enough. To my therapist and marriage counselor, you have given me the skills to live with honesty, integrity and courage.

To my fellow women I say, if you are struggling in your life sexually or find yourself having a hard time loving the person you are with, there is hope and there is healing. You can find the path to true love and bliss. Join us! We will welcome you with open arms.

To my fellow Sa men in recovery. Thank you for opening your meetings to me and teaching me how to have healthy relationships with men. I have come to see men as people with feelings, and problems just like mine. We can give each other the support we need to heal together from the same disease. I know that having women in your meeting is challenging to you on many levels and I appreciate the effort you make to be welcoming and inclusive.

I have a personal request to make to those SA groups who as of yet have decided by group conscience not to open their meetings to women. (PAUSE Count to 10) I beg and plead of you to open your doors to your fellow women addicts. Don’t deny your sisters the recovery they deserve and need. They cannot recover without your help and support! I believe you will benefit and be blessed in return. May we all continue walking with G-d hand in hand toward a sober and saner future life!

God bless you all!

July 9, 2017