After I’d been sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for a few years I began to
be able to see the addictive nature of my sexual activity. I wanted to stop
but I couldn’t. I tried all combinations of sexual activities in the hope
that one or another combination would “work” and that I’d be freed of the
I talked to a couple of other AA members who shared my problem. One of
these friends was Tom. We shared with one another our successes and
failures. Once Tom suggested that I pray while going to and being in acting
out places. This seemed to help me to accept myself as someone who couldn’t
stop running from one sexual episode to another. There was a part of me that
was good and virginal and another part that felt like a turd. Praying helped
to let these two parts of myself to come together a little bit.
About a year after the first meeting of our program, I had a sort of
spiritual awakening in a bathhouse in Amsterdam. I wasn’t getting what I
wanted in the orgy room. But instead of going on to look for sex elsewhere I
was able somehow to go back to my hotel.
On returning to New York, with the support of Tom, AA and my therapist,
I was able to stay on what we now call a sexual recovery plan. At this point
I thought it would be great if we could have 12-Step meetings to support
recovery from the craving for sex. I tried to find a meeting place in
churches, a meeting house and other institutions, but I had no success. I
finally became discouraged and stopped looking.
In June of 1982, my friend Tom called to say that Richard, another AA
friend of ours, was interested in a sexual recovery meeting and that he was
willing to donate his apartment for the meeting, at least for a start. On
June 22, we had our first meeting. Tom, who was scheduled to speak, didn’t
appear at first. So I became the first speaker.
I don’t remember what I said, but I suppose I must have talked about my
long history of going to tea rooms, bathhouses, trucks and other acting out
places. Then I must have said a little about my year of uncertainty and
shaky sobriety. Tom showed up somewhere during the qualification. There
couldn’t have been more than four or five people at the meeting.
At the third or fourth meeting, Bill L spoke. We’d known Bill since he
first came into AA. I think it was at this meeting that I learned that Bill
L had started the first Sexaholics Anonymous group in New York, based on the
principles established by Roy, the founder of SA on the West Coast. After
meeting at Bill’s apartment for several months, the group had moved to St.
Jean’s Church. Bill felt the SA literature was overtly anti-gay and decided
he didn’t want to participate any more.
At that time, we also called ourselves Sexaholics Anonymous, not because
we considered ourselves a part of that program, but simply from a lack of
imagination. We had already clearly differentiated ourselves from SA in our
determination that each member would define his/her own recovery plan for
him/her self. It was my feeling that each person came to the program with
something that they wanted to change about their sexual behavior and they
would start their sexual recovery plan with that. In addition, the
membership for at least the first six to eight months was exclusively gay
men. The literature we had from the original SA seemed very homophobic to
us. We were out to create a program which would support the self-esteem of
gay people, not put it in question.
Almost from the beginning, we had members from Al-Anon and from OA. Some
of the early members included George, Saul and Bob McC. Not too long
thereafter Bob R, Robert N, Nochem and Barbara McC began to appear. Most of
these members are still with us, though some no longer attend meetings.
In the Fall of ’82, there was to be an eclipse of the moon. A friend
told me I shouldn’t watch it on my roof because it would be too dangerous. I
concluded that I would have to watch from the park where I’d acted out most
consistently before I got sexually sober. The night of the eclipse was the
beginning of a two-month slip for me. I just couldn’t stop. I visited
temples in Bangkok and prayed for sobriety, for the lifting of my
compulsion. Then I went, powerless, directly to the octagonal tearoom right
outside the temple.
When I returned to meetings in New York (still only one a week at that
time), I feared they’d throw me out. Here I was, a founding member back “out
there” again. But no. They said: ‘Keep coming back’. They understood. It
still makes my eyes teary to remember that I was wanted; I belonged. With
great difficulty, I got sober again. It was like swimming against the
current, but the fellowship sustained me.
About this time, we started talking about getting a meeting place in a
public space. We had stopped meeting in Richard’s and the meeting moved from
place to place, making it difficult for new members to find us. We met for a
while at Bill L’s and for a while at the Gay Jewish Synagogue. I finally
agreed to look for a space again. Bob O’C suggested that another program met
at the Washington Square Community Church in Greenwich Village, and that
they might be willing to give us space, too. I called. I talked as best I
could about who we were and what we were trying to do. None of us had a lot
of sobriety at this point and I found it hard to talk about sexual
compulsion. It felt very much like I, as a sex maniac, was asking for a
place in church. I didn’t see how I, or we, could be accepted. But we got
the place and began to meet in a long, narrow room looking out onto West 3rd
Street. I still feel so grateful to that church where we still meet on
It was also at the Washington Square Community Church that our first
literature committee was formed, and put together the Characteristics, which
have become a keynote for us.
We were approached by SA in California and asked to change our name,
since we were infringing on their copyright by calling ourselves SA and
being a different program. We had a long business meeting at which I wanted
to continue to call myself a sexaholic and to have the group called
Sexaholics Anonymous. I liked the name and felt defiant. But group
conscience ruled after much debate that we would be called Sexual
Bill L.’s story was published as a companion
article in the SCAnner.
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Sexual Compulsives Anonymous International Service Organization