Sexaholics Anonymous came out of the closet

That was back in 1981 in a letter to Dear Abbey.  It’s a fun bit of SA history, and still available to be seen.  Here is (I believe) that first letter:

Some other interesting bits of SA lore can be found at

Porn reduces sex violence

First, Christ is Risen!  Happy bright week.

OK.  Porn = less violence.  That’s what the Internet says.  Must be true.

According to Stanford professor Todd Kendall, when Internet adoption goes up, sex violence goes down.  Now, I’ll hedge my bets right away and say that no matter what this doesn’t change anything about the necessity of killing sexual addiction.  Even if true, it doesn’t make porn ok.  That said, I don’t buy Dr. Kendall’s argument.

I find myself somewhat tired at the moment and uninterested in going into a long post, but I’ve seen this punted about so much that I want to make a few quick points.

  1. As Dr. Kendall himself points out, his conclusions contradict previous experiments.  He thinks his experimental situation is superior.  Perhaps…
  2. Dr. Kendall only considers the US.  This trend of “Internet up, rape down” does not hold true in other countries also getting on the broadband express.  Many of the countries that have the greatest broadband adoption also have rising or flat rates of rape per capita.
  3. Dr. Kendall doesn’t measure pornography consumption over time.  He measures access to broadband internet and makes inferences from that.  Really what his study says is that greater access to the internet substitutes for violent sexual crime.  He assumes that means if you have porn you don’t need to go out and rape someone.
  4. Kendall’s study says something very narrow, but it doesn’t at all account for a wider context of the reality of increased pornography.  For instance, perhaps some potential rapists find the internet a “safer” outlet for their aggression, but that is because there is a massive rise in the availability and production of ultra-aggressive rape or rape-like porn.

The majority of porn you’ll find on the internet flirts with being rape films.  Actually, most goes right over the border without looking back.  My personal experience is porn is mostly soft-rape.  It may be stylized.  It may present the women (or men) as being consensual or somehow getting pleasure from the act, but nevertheless it’s about someone taking pleasure from another person’s suffering.

So we’ve traded some rape incidence for a societal shift in sexual norms toward sexual violence.  Overall, bad trade.  Put another way, we’ve traded having a few men who exhibit overt, physical sexual violence, who can be prosecuted, for an entire society of men who hide mental/spiritual sexual violence, and who are considered “normal.”  Well, played society.  Well played.

Sexaholics Anonymous Beginners Meeting Script and Handouts

Script for Session 1: SABeginnersMeeting-Session1

Script for Session 2: SABeginnersMeeting-Session2

Session 2 Step 4 Worksheet: SA Beginners Meeting – Session 2 – Step 4 Worksheet

Script for Session 3: SA Beginners Meeting – Session 3

Script for Session 4: SA Beginners Meeting – Session 4

Session 4 Handouts: SA Beginners Meeting – Session 4 – Handout 1, SA Beginners Meeting – Session 4 – Handout 2

I wanted to post a copy of the scripts I use for SA Beginner Meetings.  There are 4 sessions that can take a new comer (or crusty old timer) through all 12 steps.  You can do these in 4 weeks, like old AA used to do, or any other time period that you care to use.  I know in some places they will take people through all 12 steps in a single day.  YMMV.

Since there isn’t a lot of great resources for the Beginner Meeting format I thought having access to a script and associated handouts would be helpful to others.  If you use these scripts drop me a line and let me know.  They are released with no requirements.  You are free to modify them as you see fit and republish them.

Homosexuality and Sexaholism

This last Monday at meeting I was pretty excited to welcome a new person trying out SA for the first time.  Mostly because he is gay.  This is new territory for me.  I’ve worked with offenders, guys with prison time, guys with hangups for prostitutes, guys with fetishes, guys who are drug addicts and alcoholics on the side, and guys who just don’t understand why they can’t masturbate.  But never a gay man, not that I know of anyway.  Generally people in SA are pretty transparent about sexuality, but you never know.

A week before this last Monday meeting I got a call from Tim.  I man the phone for the local group, so I called him back to talk about SA and see what his story was.  We got to talking and he mentioned he had called some SAA phone meetings, but that was the extent of his 12 step experience.  I mentioned that one difference between SA and the other S groups like SAA was that we had a stated bottom line for sobriety.  He asked what that bottom line was, and I said that it was no sex outside of marriage and no masturbation.  A pause.  “What about a marriage between homosexuals, like in a state where that’s legal?”  Oh…

Now this is where things get a little interesting in SA.  I don’t speak for SA.  No one does.  But to the best of my understanding, here is where SA stands on the question of gay marriage.

“No comment.”

SA has no opinion on outside matters, and gay marriage is an outside matter.  But, it’s not quite so straight forward to just leave it there.  For the gay sexaholic, the rules are no different than for the straight sexaholic.  The only sober sex is in the context of a heterosexual marriage, and not even all that is sober sex.  It’s definitely not “any committed relationship.”  If a LGBT sexaholic happens to be married to someone of the same sex, or in a committed relationship, or whatever, they cannot have sex of any kind.  Not sex with their partner, and not sex with themselves.

Tim and I talked for a bit, and I told him that he should come to meetings and see how things played out.  Being healthy is much too important to let anything stand in the way.  Preconceived notions or perceived unfairness not withstanding.  And on the surface of things it does seem unfair.

But actually, no, it’s not.  If you read up on the early history of SA, what you will find is that in it’s infancy this question of whether sex with committed partners of whatever orientation could be sober was an open question.  Those pioneers did something radical.  They let their experience be their guide.  They experimented with differing definitions of sobriety.  In their words, nothing other than the SA sobriety definition as it stands now was sufficient to guide them to connect with God and stop acting out.  If they tried to allow masturbation, they couldn’t get sober.  If they tried to allow committed, non-married relationships, they couldn’t get sober.  If they tried to allow homosexuals to have sex with their partners, they couldn’t get sober.  That was their experience.  I don’t condone or explain anything about it.  I just relate it.

The experience of the gay members of our fellowship is that our bottom line provides the necessary safe guidelines to allow them to see lust and surrender it to God.  And that’s really the key to why this is not discriminatory or unfair to allow straight married sexaholics to have sex, but no others.  It’s because it’s not about sex.  It’s about lust.  I have the exact same problem that Tim has.  I am caught up by the passion of lust, and I misused my sex drive.  My orientation is straight.  His is gay.  Otherwise, same thing.

But I can have sex, and Tim can’t.  In many ways, that’s actually worse for me.  As the White book says, being married is no advantage over being single (or celibate gay).  In fact, it’s a disadvantage, Roy K said.  Why?  Because as a straight, married sexaholic I have a much harder time seeing lust in my actions.  I have to constantly be on guard when engaging in sex, or even just thinking about it, in order to see what the driving force is.  Lust easily masquerades as relationship.  Again, the experience of married sexaholics is that they have found the greatest progress in surrendering lust and improving connection with others (including their spouse) when they went through extended periods of abstinence.

So many people get tripped up on this topic by thinking in terms of rights, or by coopting the current social narrative that sexuality is a necessary part of human expression.  Not acting out your orientation is “repression”, and “unhealthy.”  SA says otherwise.  “Sex is optional,” the White book says.  I’d also say that our history in the Church shows that sexuality has nothing to do with healthy human expression.  Our Lord and Savior did not express Himself sexually to be a fully actualized human being, and yet Scripture says He identifies with us completely.  How many of the apostles and saints were celibate, and yet complete in their humanity.  Rights have nothing to do with it, either.  No, sex is not a right or a necessary part of expressing love in relationship.  It’s just not.

So why can’t Tim just have some extended periods of abstinence, and safe guard against lust in a committed homosexual marriage, the same way I can?  Again, in SA, it falls back to the experience of the early addicts.  SA takes no further position on why this is.  It seems to merely be a condition of the sexual addiction and the underlying spiritual truths that go along with recovery.  SA doesn’t say anything further than that.

Now Orthodoxy, on the other hand, does go further.  I don’t speak for Orthodoxy any more than I speak for SA, but I’ll try to express my understanding of what Orthodoxy tells me about sexuality.  The consensus witness of Scripture and the history of the Church is uniform in viewing homosexuality as a disorder.  I’m not aware of any minority view on this.  I don’t feel that I have a firm enough grasp on the mind of the Church on this subject to comment further.  It would merely be my worthless speculation.

Homosexuality appears to have at least some components that are inherent from birth, perhaps genetic.  Some studies have pointed to particularly genetic sequences that might play a part.  Of course, any time someone points to a behavior and says, “genetic,” I see oversimplification.  But I don’t hesitate to accept that sexual orientation may be strongly directed by genetics.  It doesn’t matter, though.  I find the origin and causes of same sex attraction to be irrelevant.

I am a sex addict, powerless over lust and a slave to the passions in my own power.  I understand deeply about powerless and lack of choice.  I am straight.  I didn’t choose to be straight.  I am also an addict.  I didn’t choose to be an addict.  I made choices that contributed, but I cannot just choose to stop acting out or lusting.  I don’t know if I could choose to be gay, or whether Tim could choose to be straight.  It seems that there is evidence both ways.  I have two good friends who grew up straight and then late in life decided they were gay.  I have an uncle who was bi-sexual in practice, and then went straight heterosexual.  The complexities of the choices or pre-existing conditions that feed into sexual orientations is something that has to be respected, but they are a distraction from the real issue.

God has joined me to Himself in baptism and the mystery of the Eucharist.  I am a part of His body, and am being re-created in His image.  His image does not include disorders, or sexual orientations, or addictions, or the passions.  I cannot continue to act in lust regardless of my powerlessness to do anything else.  Like Paul I am waging war with the law at work in my members, doing the things I do not wish to do.  But I overcome through Christ who gives me strength.  For 16 months now I have been safe in the grace of God from the ravages of addiction.  God called me to purity, and then has made me pure, day by day.  I could not do it on my own for 30 years, and I still can’t do it on my own today.

Back to Tim.  About 10 minutes before I was leaving to go to meeting I got a call from Tim.  He was already at the meeting spot.  He was early and just wanted to make sure he didn’t miss.  We have a few other guys that came.   One guys is almost finalized in his divorce and just can’t let go of sex.  He’s talking to a woman on a dating site with an open marriage.  He just wants to see where it goes.  Another guy goes to Narcotics Anonymous too.  He has just a few days of sobriety, but he keeps come to SA meeting because his NA meetings just don’t get sex addiction.  Tim listened really hard.  He prayed with us at the end.  He bought a white book and told me he heard a lot that he identified with.  I told him to call me any time if he needed to talk.  I hope to see him again next week.

For Tim or my two good friends who are gay, I say, I don’t care what your orientation is.  I love you, and I hope you can overlook my great sin and love me too.  You are always welcome at my Church and in my meeting.  I wouldn’t change the SA sobriety definition, or the stance of my Church even if I could.  I hope that you can look beyond the questions of unfairness and rights, and see a higher calling to something that seems impossible.  Because when that impossible thing happens in your life, you will know that you know that you know that you’ve encountered God.

Best of times, worst of times

As always, Lent provides some real highs and lows.  The first week of lent has been hard for me over the years.  Slipping into this time of repentance with fasting for some reason always brings out extra troubles.  I guess that’s what you’d expect, except that I never expect it.

Mental note: Lent will be hard. Don’t be surprised.

It’s different every year, but this year’s lent opening number was primarily a surprise trip down memory lane.  As you would expect from a sexaholic, I’ve done a bit of a number on my wife in a few ways.  Mostly she is the soul of grace, but on occasion the PTSD rears its ugly head and we have to have a “conversation.”  This sucks on many levels.  It sucks for her.  It sucks for me.  She doesn’t want to have to think about things.  I don’t want to have to go back there.  But it happens, and we go back through it and work it out again on another level.  I try not to be frustrated but there’s some of that inevitably that comes up.

After that conversation I found that for a few days I was in a depressed state.  I hate the remembrance of my evil.  I’d much rather remember me in my awesome moments, and not so much the ones where I completely debased myself.  But they are there, and they are a needed reminder of why I go through Lent and repent and turn myself over to God.  And not just through Lent.  Ever day, every morning.  It’s part of the 12-step life and I continue to practice that, unworthy though I am.

God forgive me a sinner.  Make of me what you will.  Thankfully it’s in His hands, and that’s where I can forgive myself.  When I’m on my own, I’m just a dirt bag.  When I’m in His hands I find I can be more gentle with myself.  I’m being saved.  Slowly, one prayer, one day, one Lent at a time.

Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup

I just wanted to make a quick note about this.  I only found out about it today, so I have very little information about it.  I am not endorsing it, because my ignorance make me incapable of having an opinion about it, other than I’m interested to read more.  I am interested in any Orthodox response to addiction, and so I can at a minimum say that I’m pulling for them.  I’ll probably contact the priest in charge soon and question him about it.  In the meantime, here’s some links to the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup that you might find interesting.

Interview on Ancient Faith

Fellowship Web Site

Confession and Step 5

Today I went to confession.  My local priest hasn’t been blessed yet to receive confession, so I travel to another town periodically.  The period is much longer than it should be.  Mostly I forget about it until it’s been quite awhile, and then I feel increasingly driven to get it done.  My laziness should not be confused with apathy or indifference.  I understand that confession is vitally important and necessary.  I just don’t let that mind belief translate into action nearly as much as I should.  Excuses aside, it’s just lazy.

But today I went.  Confession for me is like exercise.  I put it off, and before I finally do it seems pretty heavy, but afterwards I’m always encouraged and ready to re-engage.  This is good, since we’re about to go into Lent.  Getting confession in before seems fitting, since this is a period of repentance.  Maybe I’ll go again before Pascha.

I was thinking later on in the day that Confession for me feels very different from doing a fifth step in SA.  Either as a sponsor or sponsee.  If you are unfamiliar with the fifth step, it’s a type of confession that is done to another human being.  That person is typically your sponsor, but it can be a priest or other trusted individual.  It is massive.  It takes a lot of preparation time, and it usually covers things all the way back to your childhood.  That prep time is what is called step four.  When you’ve done your step 4 prep you set a time aside with the person who will “hear your fifth step” and go to it.  This is usually a process of hours.

I’ve been the person doing that step 5 confession once, and I’ve been the person listening to a step 5 a few times.  It’s a trust exercise on a massive scale, no matter which person you are in the equation.  You are going to get out as much of the whole, hairy mess that is your inner person, as you can.  It seems that unless you can turn yourself inside out, and expose all that ugly to at least one other person on the planet, you can never really connect with God in a way that will lead to relief from addiction.  A ridiculous level of honesty is required.  All others need not apply.

People have a lot of various responses to doing a step 5.  For some it is difficult and emotional.  For others it is liberating and they go in without any hesitation.  For me, it was a relief.  I was SO ready to get that crap out, that I dropped the worst stuff I had ever done on my sponsor without hesitation.  My sponsor was 3 years older than me in SA, and about 10 years younger than me in physical years.  It was his first time hearing a fifth step, and my first time giving one, so we launched in as only the naive can.  It took about 3 hours, and at the end he knew things about me that very few others do.  It was cathartic but not hugely emotional.  It made me feel transparent.  It let me move on.

But it wasn’t like confession.  It’s meant to be, but it’s not.  I still struggle with encapsulating exactly why this is, and I’m not sure I have a great answer.  The fourth and fifth step of 12-step programs evolved from the process of confession found in the Oxford Group, the parent movement that AA pioneers came through and drew on when founding AA.  The Oxford Group was a mostly Protestant attempt to reinvent early Christianity.  The goal was to shake up and wake up the Protestant church.  One of the main practices they reinstated was confession.  This was one of their foundational principles, and was part of the process that Bill Wilson went through when he got sober.  He translated that into the fourth and fifth steps of AA, which are the same fourth and fifth steps that SA uses.

So the Oxford group saw it as confession, like the early church had.  AA and SA sees it as a spiritual activity necessary to creating a spiritual awakening that is necessary for reconnecting with God and getting sober.  I have no reason to doubt the combined experience of millions that it is, in fact, necessary and spiritual.  But it’s still not confession in the way the Orthodox Church practices it.

When I go to confession, my spiritual father prays for and with me as we stand in front of the icon of Jesus.  We sit, and I immediately begin to cry.   Every time.  I’m not a weepy sort of guy, and he does nothing to provoke the tears.  I go in with some preparation like I did when I prepped for my fifth step, and that preparation does not include “make sure you cry” as a bullet point.  But I can’t help it.  The situation of feeling my sinfulness and the presence of God is nothing like what I’ve felt in SA.  SA is not a Church or a denomination.  It’s a fellowship of men and women who are all sharing experiences with recovering from addiction.  It’s spiritual, but it’s when I go to Confession that there’s an overwhelming need to repent with tears, and receive the love of God directly.  It’s so different, and it’s great.

I think both types of confession are useful.  My confession at Church usually doesn’t last that long.  My confessor doesn’t spend a lot of time on the gritty details.  He’s heard it before.  He’s much more concerned with the healing.  He talks to me about tuning my life to get better.  He expresses hope with firmness, and I go out with new purpose.  My confession in my fifth step seems to be more about a willingness to be honest, and an exercise in humility.  If I won’t expose the dirty parts of my life to another person, then I won’t let them go.  I have to admit them to myself, to God, and to another human being.  My sponsor didn’t forgive me, or even really give me much in the way of tune up advice.  He listened.  He accepted the burden of hearing my sins.  He encouraged me and pushed me on to the next step.  I’m very grateful for him, and for that process.

I will probably repeat it again some day, and I’m always deeply humbled when I’m asked to do this with another person.  But when they ask, if they are Orthodox (or of some faith that also practices confession), I tell them to go to confession with their priest.  I can do one sort of thing for them, but I cannot provide the medicine they will find in the Church.  I want them to get both.