A member's story

25 Years of Acting Out and I never lived like I have these last 18 months in recovery! Updated-2 years & 1 month sober
Like it says, I've been acting out for 25 years, in the interest of rigorous honesty I am 33. But nothing compares to how much living I have done in recovery in the last 18 months. Even better this last month that I finally got a sober sponsor! Updates as I continue to work The 12 Steps of SAA and sponsor others through the steps.

For me, mine is a long story and I was so glad to get it all out when I presented my first step on the Sunday GLBT meeting a short while ago, I was finally able to do so while working with a sober sponsor. In the interest of sharing in a safe way, here are bullet points and I'm glad to speak to anyone who can relate and is looking for help in recovery from these things.

What Were Things Like

  • I was introduced to sex at 6 by a neighbor boy slightly younger than me. My mother caught us. I was essentially punished (shamed) and told I was to keep my clothes on at all time so I didn't get sick.

  • A short while later his two older (high school/college age) also used me for sex.

  • By the time I was 8, because of the way they manipulated me into engaging sexually, I was associating sex with friendship. I had a friend from school and I was obsessed with engaging the way those other 3 did with me, but THANKFULLY someone had taken the time to explain to him appropriate behavior and he refused to undress with me.

  • Over the next 5 years I would meet, be-friend, and attempt to manipulate other boys my age and younger into sexual contact. I was engaging in a shame/acting out cycle. The worse I felt about what was happening the more I needed it. Until a boy my age was caught engaging with a boy much younger than him in our neighborhood. I remember how awful they spoke of him and the treatment he received at school for what was coming out about him. It was enough to get me to stop that kind of acting out.

  • Over the summer that year I spent a lot of time a the local pool where I learned I could spend hours at the pool locker room waiting for other men to come in and undress and I could expose myself to them, too. Many times I would go through this undress, shower, redress, move to another changing area. I would wait sometimes an hour, maybe more, for another man to come in. I remember how frustrated I would get when someone would avoid me. I realize now these men were trying to protect themselves from me, I was 13! This carried on most of the summer before my brother caught me one day and told our father he called me jail bait and a whore and I honestly didn't understand what I was doing wrong, I wanted to see other naked men and show myself to them and I didn't understand why I was being punished. So, I went deeper into secrecy.

  • I spent hours upon hours every chance I got behind my locked door, many times I masturbated until I injured myself. At one point, at my young age I was so scared I thought I had somehow permanently broke my penis. I had to wait weeks, in secret, before I healed. I was becoming so obsessed with masturbation I would record myself and watch it. Then I would compulsively destroy tapes that later I realized contained priceless family memories. When I was cornered later about why my father was missing tapes. I built up this big story about how I wanted to see how tapes worked. He was an engineer and I deceived him according to what I thought would get him off my case. I was learning to lie and no tale was too tall to save myself from him anger, rage, and abusive punishment. My mother saw through it though and before I was 14 she told me she didn't trust me and didn't think I even knew when I was lying or not.

  • At 16 I had a car, and we had the internet. I had erotic stories, then free picture galleries, then I found gay chat rooms, then I found user-created chat rooms where I was engaging with much-older adult men. At first, I said I was much older hoping if I hid my age I could have their attention. But it didn't take me long to see that many of these men, 3 times my age, were interested in me. But, I was too young for most of them to meet in person.

  • Within a month from learning to navigate the hidden world of chat rooms I met my first anonymous hookup. It was dangerous, and cold, and he was much older than he said he was, and I was much younger than I said I was. After we had sex he agreed to meet again. That next time I told him how I really was and he told me how old he was and we agreed that "age didn't matter", he was 29, and we agreed to meet a 3rd time and then he never showed.

  • I found other men though and within a year was being threatened by men I was standing up and once a man 3 times my age attempted to kidnap me.

  • As an adult, I found online hookup sites for gay men and I hit the streets.

  • When I exhausted the local supply of men I took to nearby gay resorts that also hosted a hidden sex club environment. I would drive over an hour every weekend and sometimes stayed just until I had to return to work the next week.

  • When I exhausted my spending on these out of town trips I had heard of a local adult video arcade off the interstate, a steady supply of new faces kept me hooked and I would visit multiple times a week.

  • When the spending got to be too much I loosened my standards and starting inviting multiple men in my home. I spent the entire weekend inviting anyone would come to my home for sex. I spent the entire weekend looking for and having sex.

  • By the time I was visiting the resorts I had loosened my standards concerning condoms. At first it always had to be with condoms, eventually I would allow someone to skip them if we were "dating long enough" and I thought he was drug and disease free, then it was okay if you could tell me you were clean, ultimately the night I hit my bottom the best the man could do was to tell me he didn't have anything I could catch.

What happened

  • By the time I hit bottom I had already been going to SAA without working the steps and without a sponsor for 3 months. I was having trouble seeing that I had a disease, I just thought I was a sexual superhero and I needed help not crossing the line with unprotected sex.

  • I got a sponsor and we worked a Christian workbook that I had a lot of trouble relating to. I spent so much time trying to translate what the Bible stories meant for me that I was missing out on the principles.

  • That sponsor moved and I jumped at the opportunity to fire him and get another sponsor.

  • Somehow I saved up 11 months of sobriety through keeping it all at bay and self-medicating with compulsive porn and masturbation. I didn't know that I wasn't really sober. What I mean is, I didn't realize that to really get sober and recover I needed to add porn and masturbation to my inner circle. And I didn't know that because I was working alone, I only realized that after I found my sober sponsor through the men's outreach newsletter after I relapsed after my 11 months of what I call "mostly sober".

What's it like now (With a Sober Sponsor)

  • We completed my 3 Circles. I read them every day along with a list of possible consequences for acting out (what I might lose), an inner and middle circle plan (what do I do if I find myself in middle circle behaviors or if I act out/relapse behaviors in the inner circle). My outer circle has a lot of awesome stuff I can do. My "3 Circles Sheet" I call it also includes a mantra my sober sponsor gave to me that helped during my withdrawal and detox "Everything I am experiencing will help me be of service to others." And he's right, I realize in the outreach calls and my really getting with the solution in meetings I am finally able to offer something more than the problem!

  • I finally finished a sober 1st step, most of which I have shared here (see What were things like). As mentioned I was able to share it in a first step presentation supported by local members, too.

  • In Step 2 I was able to get with a Power greater than me who is so much more than the God of my broken childhood, now I work with an awesome God of my understanding. Everyday I read my description of this God I trust-it's part of my 3 Circles sheet.

  • I just finished work on my 3rd step prayer with my sober sponsor and after some time with the prayer daily, soon he and I hope I'll be ready to start the 4th step

  • So... hopefully, there's more good to come here!

So what would I really like to say? I've heard it before and never fully understood it, but, if you are coming to meetings but not working the steps and not getting with a sponsor you are an SAA tourist! You are missing out on an opportunity to join so many of us Recovering from Sex Addiction! I am so grateful to have received this gift of despair to cause me to get serious about finding a sponsor who was serious about working the SAA program with SAA literature. That What's it like now is less than a month of work and already I am feeling my feelings and really able to relate, not judge, but relate to other sex addicts in meetings and in outreach calls. I am alive!

Update... Progressing Through the Steps means Progressing in Recovery

Step 4 is coming along... slowly! My sponsor is supportive and persistent in all the rights ways. I am really starting to understand the reason why and how I do some of the crazy things I do and look forward to updating after I finish step 4.

Update, still working Step 4. I have had a few relapses and everyone of them have taught me more and more about the surrender in Step 3. My advice, let your Sponsor guide you through Step 4. Only an addict would head in to something, never having done it before, swearing they know the better way! I think it comes from a life of thinking I was examining myself, but really I was just looking at myself through a haze of fear and rationalization. So once again I turn to my sponsor, admit my powerlessness & unmanageability, remember that my Higher Power is capable and willing to restore me to sanity and ready for my surrender to my Higher Power, the Program of SAA, and my Sponsor. And, I continue to work Step 4 as so many have done before me, knowing that my experience will be used to help someone else.

Update... Continuing in Spite of Setbacks.

At the time of my last update, I had, as I have come to see it, really matured in step 3, a willingness to surrender to the program, to seek my sponsor's help and guidance, to turn my will and my life over to the care of the God of my understanding. I picked up my most recent white chip at that time, and dug in desperately to work step 4, still struggling. What I have to say next may help someone, so I share it, I love that sponsor, I do not blame him for my setback, sometimes a setback is really just a set right, a course correction. At the time my sponsor was pretty rigid about working the 4th step a very particular way. I kept reading in the green book that there might be different ways to work it. When I would ask him he would sternly encourage me to not take my will and my life back, but to surrender. Then my sponsor had to report to me that he was looking for a sponsor because his sponsor relapsed, my grandsponsor relapsed. Then my own sponsor got current and told me that he was in relapse...for 6 months. I love him, I am truly sorry he and his sponsor had to relapse, I knew I needed to get another sponsor. At the time, my sponsor had been so rigid, and to know that he was in relapse for 6 months?! It was impossible for me, at the time, to continue to work with him because already I struggled with wondering how much of my struggle with the 4th step had something to do with the rigidity he had while he was in relapse. Today, I hope for him recovery, and to know the love and compassion from a Higher Power that I have come to lean on. I am grateful today that he offered me his best. I am grateful that I have not had to pick up too much resentment. By the end of that week, I had a new sponsor. And within 2 months of us working together he recognized and help me see, without judgment or shame, that the way I had been instructed to work the 4th step, there was no way that I could finish it in my lifetime that way! He made some suggestions and I took what I liked and left the rest (at his suggestion). 

I am very glad to report that I completed a step 4 after 10 months of struggling to get in line, 2 months of earnest attempt to fit my square peg into my sponsor's triangle-shaped hole, and then 2 months of work after being encouraged with a way that I could work and receive the benefits of step 4-culminating in one long day of work in a library; which, is now something of a irregular gathering of local sex addicts to meet together and work on step work in the library, or service, or sponsorship stuff-something S-recovery related.

Step 5 occurred over a number of phone conversations, my current sponsor is remote. What a gift to break through the shame in a very honest way.

Somewhere along the way my current sponsor had encouraged a practice of meditation, he encouraged me to serve as a sponsor. I am grateful to be passing on my experience to 4 "beautiful and worthwhile creatures" (sponsees), my own favorite nickname for them.

Step 6... thanks to my experiences with steps 2-5, I could really fearlessly make a list of my character defects.

Step 7... by the time I finished that list I was ready to ask God to remove them. I wrote out a 7th step prayer and there in the library (more step work at the library) I got on my knees, looking out a window, and with joyful tears in my eyes, pointed my eyes up to a beautiful blue sky and asked God to remove the defects which stand in the way of my helpfulness to others and grow in me the assets to help others around me.

Step 8... a list, and that's all, just a list! It was a real chore for me to hear and apply this simple truth: we are only writing the list. And guess what, the list may have additions throughout my life. So, the perfectionism my Higher Power has been chipping away at gives way for me to honestly write the list without worrying about what comes next.

Step 9... and what came next, my first amends... to myself. In some journaling I found myself wanting to offer myself the love, compassion, gentleness, and kindness I have learned to offer others. In a very emotional outpouring, I found myself offering amends for the way I have, with character defects, drug myself through the mud. Having already begun to practice Step 10, by beginning a nightly review as a way to help with an awareness of my character defects in 6 & 7, and Step 11, by beginning to learn and practice to pray and meditate, and Step 12 in sponsorship and sharing with newcomers as a local contact on the http://saa-recovery.org website meeting directory; I must say, at the time, the best way to explain what happened next was an awareness that all 12 steps were "within" me. A spiritual awakening. 

What next?!

I want to continue. To continue to write my 8th Step list. To continue, with my sponsor's support, to make amends according to Step 9. To continue to grow in recovery (continue with the maintenance/growth Steps 10, 11, & 12). To continue be of help to others. And to continue to update this with more that is to be revealed! This is something I especially want to point out, because I didn't know it until it was happening to me, it may have taken you a short time to read this, be encouraged, as I am now, that I have spelled out a process (from abuse and addiction to this 12 Step Experience) that has taken 28 years, I began in recovery (maybe) around October 2014, started going to the rooms of SAA in April 2015, hit bottom the summer of 2015-got a sponsor and worked something other than an SAA program of recovery, then again, and deeper, hit another bottom in August 2016, got an SAA sponsor September 2016, then another SAA sponsor in July 2017.... My sobriety date is May 17, 2017 at the time of my writing this, by God's will and grace if I get to continue to keep spiritually fit, tomorrow I will celebrate 10 months of sobriety. I have never been this sober for this long. It has taken me 25 years as an acting out sex addict before I could come to recovery, 6 months to find SAA, then still had to hit bottom twice over the course of 16 months before getting my first SAA sponsor, and then it still took me 18 months to work the steps. I like to tell sponsees, it can take a while to get sober and work the steps, and my current sponsor says, it's okay, because I'm hoping for a long and slow recovery for you! What a gift: the grace to be able to take the time, for the first time in my life to not be rushing through to finish, but actually live in the moment. I know that my sobriety, first physical and now emotional/spiritual, depend on 1) God's will for me, 2) his grace, 3) you all-your acceptance and support, and 4) my spiritual fitness. I look forward to more being revealed and the grace to continue to share it.

Another update at 2 years & 1 month sober

I continue with the same sponsor I had as of the last update, active in my SAA home group, and actively supporting the recovery of others-serving as a sponsor. Some of the biggest challenges have come in the last year. I started getting really uncomfortable with my partner's aggressive behavior and I knew I needed to get help. We tried a life coach, a therapist, I went back to Al-Anon. In the end, I no longer needed the chaos of that relationship and did my best to gently separate.

I decided to go back to school and recently found out I'll qualify to graduate with 2 Associate's Degrees! From perpetual procrastinator to successful college student.

After 11 years of silence, an STD I picked up in my acting out came into recurrence. There was a cancer scare and some pain. Right now I'm still physically recovering.

My own mother had her own health complications and I have been helping her as she physically recovers.

If you are new, as I once was, you may be asking, "What do these things have to do with SAA and sex addiction?!"

When the stuff hit the fan with my partner, I really struggled and felt like I came close to losing my sobriety over all that insanity. And I talked it out with friends-in and out of recovery, my sponsor, outside help. In my addiction I would have thrown away progress to numb, in recovery I clung even tighter to "just for today". Just for today I don't have to run. Just for today I can stay sober. I visited some open Anonymous meetings of other fellowships so I could "just stay sober for another hour."

In my addiction, improving my situation with a career change or school wasn't even an option. I started and restarted so many times. In my recovery, I can see things through. I can try and if I don't want to do it after an honest try, I have the freedom to try something else!

I am especially proud of my response to this STD recurring. Eleven years ago I noticed something not quite right and waited until I was sure something was wrong. A few months ago when I realized again, something is not quite right I was at the doctor the next morning. I knew that no matter what came next I was free to trust a power greater than me was caring for me. I was honest about my fear with my nurse and the number of doctors that followed. Turns out when you're not running in fear from the doctor they can be quite helpful. I had done the work of the 4th step and recognized right away a growing resentment, "My body is turning against me." And I sat through that and examined my part, I know how I came by this STD. I know what it is, in recovery, to be okay with the consequences.

Now my mother is healing from a very helpful surgery and I have been available to help her out. In my addiction I would have avoided helping. I have sat with my mother in the hospital, helped her about in hospital gowns, and helped around her home in chores. What a gift to be present and available!

I could not have risen to these challenges without my recovery. I told my sponsor one day "I'm proud of what my recovery can withstand" and I'm proud of the opportunities living sober affords. At one point, checking in my own health concerns in my SAA home group, I was able to share that it looks like it's not cancer, "What a gift to not have to have cancer!" I said. And then, "And I know today if I had to have cancer, that would be a gift, too."

In my home group, we often close with a reading from the green book, page 61, last 2 paragraphs,

     Practicing these principles in our lives means applying program principles at home, at work, and wherever else we gather with others for a common purpose. As we grow spiritually , we find opportunities for service in virtually any situation. Our closes relationships may offer the most challenges to our honesty, compassion, and integrity, but we are often rewarded beyond our expectations. We find that spiritual principles can guide us in the everyday challenges of life, and they can help us face even loss, grief, and death with fortitude and grace. What we gain in this program is a blueprint for full and successful living, whatever may come.

     We maintain our recovery by working a daily program, in the knowledge that although we can never be perfect, we can be happy today. We can live life on life's terms, without have to change or suppress our feelings. Our serenity and sobriety grow as we continue to live according to spiritual principles. We enjoy the gifts that come from being honest and living a life of integrity. We ask for help when we need it, and we express our love and gratitude every day. We realize that everything we have been through helps us to be of service to others. We learn that the world is a much safer place that we had ever known before, because we are always in the care of a loving God.

And from the "The Steps are the Spiritual Solution" beginning with the 3rd edition, on pages 99-100, last paragraph,

     The steps are the spiritual solution to our addiction - leading not only to a life of abstinence from our addictive sexual behaviors, but to a fulfilling life of service to our brothers and sisters in recovery and beyond. The spiritual awakening described in Step Twelve puts us on the path of service and connects us with our Higher Power, our fellow addicts, and our world in ways we had never dreamed possible. This awakening is the foundation of a responsible and joyful existence as we seek and find our Higher Power's will for us - both in our individual lives and in the life of our fellowship. And for this priceless gift of recovery, so astonishingly simple, so freely available, we are humbly grateful. We invite all suffering sex addicts, inside and outside the rooms of SAA, to join with us in accepting this gift.

My whole life is a gift! A confusing childhood, a life lived in addiction, a life lived in recovery, all a gift! A sponsor, a community, the steps and traditions, all a gift! Today, I am grateful for the pain I have known, it was the way I came by the wonderful gifts I am grateful for today. I do not have to shy away from any aspect of my life, and all interactions are opportunities to grow and serve. I'm not perfect, but when I'm wrong I enjoy admitting it promptly. I am especially grateful for recovery friendships that aren't afraid to cut through the bullshit and I tell me home group if I ever seem like I'm losing my mind, please knock me over the head and drag me and my falling off ass to a meeting, I'm sure I'll thank you later!

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