Looking back to September of 1977 when I went to my first
AA meeting, little did I know that I was putting down one drug just to pick
up another: compulsive sex. Actually most of my adult life from the age of
nineteen had been devoted to the pursuit of sex, searching for sex, having
sex, feeling ashamed afterwards but starting the whole cycle over and over
again. I would also romanticize these events in the hope that one of them
would develop into a relationship. Of course it never did. However, the
pain, despair and shame did lead me to start to search for help. As soon as
I started to go to AA meetings I stopped drinking and I remember how
frightened I felt. ‘Who are these people, can I trust them?’ I thought. I
found some sort of escape and solace in the darkness of the bathhouses. It
makes me sad now to think that the darkness was what I felt I deserved. In
all honesty I have to admit at first it was a way of discovering my
sexuality and a big boost to my ego to discover that so many other men were
interested in me. That didn’t last long and soon I started to live with a
lot of despair. Talking about this area of my life in AA was uncomfortable
even though I did it anyway. I even remember talking to Frank H about what
was going on. Little did I know that a few years later Frank H would
reappear in my life, in such a profound way.
During this time I started a number of things. It seemed that even
though I talked about my acting out to my sponsor and just about anyone else
who would listen, I just couldn’t stop acting out. I felt so out of control.
Sometime during 1977, I started going to consciousness-raising groups.
No one had heard about AIDS and the sexual revolution was in full
bloom. For the next two years I was in three of these groups and they did
help. I was able to start to feel better about myself and to accept myself
as a gay male. Two other things happened at this time which I did not then
realize how significant they would be in my recovery. I started to use my
creativity again and stopped using amyl nitrate. Getting completely sober
and honest with myself really woke me up. At that time I stopped bringing
strangers home and/or going to their apartment. At first I managed to stop
this behavior only for several weeks but then the periods grew longer. This
was a difficult time because I was trying to control the disease.
In 1981, I went to my first DA meeting. Even though I thought I was
making progress, I continued to act out and even started to go back to
bathhouses on a regular basis. I remember one incident very vividly. I was
lying on a bed in one of the little rooms and as I glanced at my
outstretched arm I realized that there was no difference between me and a
heroin addict waiting for his next hit. I closed the door, got down on my
knees, and prayed for help. I certainly didn’t have much hope, but the next
evening I went to a DA meeting. I shared about my frustration, despair and
helplessness about my not being able to stop acting out sexually. A few
months earlier I had brought the idea of starting a program of self help for
sex addicts to my therapist. He told me that a program for sexual sobriety
would never work because everyone needs sex. Fortunately, I stopped seeing
him a week later.
John the founder of DA approached me after I had shared and just held
me. He shared with me that it sounded to him like I was in a place like the
one he was in when he started DA. My first thought was how could I start a
program? But when Collin, Jim J, Thomas T, Nochem, and a few others said
that they would support me. I did just that.
On a Sunday evening in 1981, the first meeting focusing on acting out
sexually met in my apartment. I felt so scared and also so excited. What
would this actually be about? Who would come? For the next few months the
group met every Sunday at my apartment. In the beginning the people were
mainly from DA: Collin, Saul M, Jim S, Thomas T and a few others, including
women. We didn’t have any structure and certainly we had no literature. At
that time I had not read anything about sexual addiction. After a few months
I received a letter from someone who had been in one of those
consciousness-raising groups I had attended a few years earlier. He enclosed
the names of three programs: SLAA in Boston, SA in Simi Valley, and another
whose name I can’t remember now. I wrote to all three and received
information from SLAA and SA and presented the information to the group at
the next meeting.
I was beginning to get some recovery and didn’t act out nearly as much.
Also I was beginning to have hope again. We liked what we read in the SA
literature, even though we didn’t like the tone of what was said about
homosexuality. Some of the other people in the group felt the same. When the
founder of SA, Roy K, met with us, we brought this to his attention and he
said “No problem” and that it could be taken care of. We took a vote and
became SA New York. I felt so good. I felt I was walking on air for I had
We continued to meet and in a few months new literature arrived. It
directly put down homosexuality and personally I felt I had been betrayed.
The more I learnt about the principles and the underlying beliefs of SA, the
more I began to feel that SA came from a place of feeling guilt about one’s
sexuality. With all the work I had done on myself I was determined not to
feel guilty about having sex. SA was based on the idea that you couldn’t
have sex unless you were in a committed relationship. It was based in the
fundamentalist religion I had been taught as a child. I decided that this
was not for me and that it would not be being true to myself. I said that I
couldn’t be part of SA and suggested that the meeting find another meeting
place. They found a place at St Jean’s on Lexington Avenue. The meetings had
at this point been taking place in my pottery-filled apartment for six
months. With no meetings to attend, needless to say, in a short time I was
back to my old acting out behavior.
When the phone rang in May of 1982 I was surprised to hear Tom L at the
other end. Even though I knew him from AA he had never called me before. He
told me that he was interested in attending one of the meetings he heard
were meeting in my apartment. I explained all that had happened and added
that I was desperate for a meeting myself. I arranged to meet Tom at an SA
meeting. Somehow I had got the information wrong and when Tom and I arrived
we found no SA meeting. I must say that I was relieved and at the same time
felt that I needed a meeting. It was such a beautiful spring day that Tom L.
and I decided to walk to Central Park and there talked for a few hours. I
felt so uplifted. Later Tom L. came back to my apartment and I gave him the
SA literature that I had. We decided that we would try to find a meeting
place, since I wasn’t comfortable using my apartment at that time.
A few weeks passed and on the morning after one of my binges I got down
on my knees and prayed to God for help. That afternoon I was walking up
Seventh Avenue and I heard a voice call to me from across the street. It was
Tom L. I was overjoyed to see him and embraced him. He told me that Richard
from AA was allowing a sexual recovery meeting to take place in his
apartment. It had just started and the second meeting would take place next
Monday. He asked me if I would speak. Would I ever!
I couldn’t wait for Monday evening to arrive. Little did I know that I
would see Frank H there. I remembered our talks a few years before in AA. It
made me feel good inside. Saul was there and a few other people from OA. We
met in Richard’s apartment for six months before we started to meet in other
people’s apartments. We used the SA literature with parts I didn’t like
crossed out. I put everything I had, all my energies, into not acting out.
While some of my behavior seemed to have stopped, I just couldn’t seem to
stop going to bathhouses. With just one meeting a week I started to call
people up on the phone for help and support.
There were times when I felt I would die if I didn’t have sex. What
really helped was being able to go to my studio and work with clay. It was a
very painful time for me, but having my creativity was a spiritual and
healing outlet. A few of us kept showing up week after week to meetings. We
began to get stronger. I don’t know if at the time any one of us knew what
was going on. In time we became Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. Frank H found
a meeting place at Washington Square Community Church. It was a wonderful
learning time for me. For the first time I started to try different
approaches to deal with my sexual compulsion. I stopped cruising on the
streets and soaking in those seductive images. I tried dating without the
goal of ending up in bed. SCA helped me to stop viewing people (as well as
myself) as sexual objects. I started to be not so seductive. My friendships
with people changed for the better.
SA asked us not to use its name on our literature. Soon afterwards the
first SCA Literature Committee was formed. The Literature Committee meetings
were very unstructured, but we continued to meet. Richard, Bruce, Saul,
Nochem, Bob M and I (I hope I haven’t left anyone out) started writing out
the Characteristics. Bob took notes on our discussions and formalized the
first piece of SCA literature: The Characteristics. Even after sixteen
years, when I read them I am still amazed at how true they are. I now know
that God was guiding us during these Literature Committee meetings, as well
as in starting Sexual Compulsives Anonymous.
Frank H.’s story was published as a companion
article in the SCAnner.
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