EACH STEP HOLDS A BLESSING….
By Steve W. – San Diego SCA
My name is Steve and I am a sex addict. I am recovering in San Diego using
the Twelve Steps of SCA, the support of my friends in the Fellowship and by
the grace of God.
I compromised many values in my disease. I compromised my self-respect by
having hundreds of sexual encounters with people I would not normally
associate with, people I was not aroused by, or people I pleased without
receiving any pleasure myself. I compromised my self-respect by having sex
in filthy public restrooms, behind bushes in public parks, in old, dirty
hotels and outdoors in cars. I finally lost my self-respect through the
desperate nature of my need for sex at all costs that drove me to abandon
responsibilities for sex, to abandon my safety for sex, and to finally
abandon myself as well.
I compromised my safety by having sex with complete strangers, allowing them
to take me into their cars and houses, and by making uninvited sexual
advances to people I assumed were Gay or interested, barely escaping being
beaten several times.
I compromised jobs by driving to acting-out places on lunch breaks, losing
track of time and showing up late with a lot of explaining to do. Once,
while using the company truck to cruise, someone saw the phone number on it
and called my employer asking if the truck had been stolen, for they saw it
driving around and around. I was lucky not to have been fired. I
compromised relationships by cheating on my lovers, driven by an urge I
couldn’t control. Even though the sex in my relationships was wonderful, I
couldn’t stop cruising and acting-out on the side. This hurt my lovers
badly and deeply harmed the relationships. I always wanted more sex than I
got from my lovers, and yet at the same time I hated myself for feeling this
way, because I wanted so desperately to remain true to them.
I compromised my honesty by lying pathologically to my lovers about
cheating, lying to tricks about my positive HIV status, lying to friends
about where I spent so much time and lying to myself about the
destructiveness of my behaviors.
My self-esteem was compromised as I gradually realized I wasn’t having sex
for fun anymore, but was instead being driven by an urge I couldn’t control,
and as I failed in attempt after attempt to stay out of parks and restrooms,
and as I kept finding myself in yet another degrading sex situation, I began
feeling worse and worse about myself. My self-esteem vanished.
I compromised healthy sexual expression, watching it change from a loving
act I shared with someone I cared about to an empty event where I pleased
someone I was not aroused by — later fantasizing about their pleasure.
I lied to and deceived myself. I told myself, “I’m having fun, I’m enjoying
this,” when I wasn’t. I told myself “I” couldn’t get HIV. I thought
sharing sex was sharing love. I pretended I wasn’t risking my health or
safety by acting-out. I conned myself into believing acting-out validated
me and made me feel better when actually it made me feel steadily worse.
When I’d miss important responsibilities because of acting-out I’d tell
myself they weren’t that important, at least not more important than having
sex. I believed it was all right to cheat on my lovers, that it wouldn’t
hurt them. I pretended there was nothing wrong with charging a hundred
dollars at a time on my credit cards for sex accessories or hotels, charges
I knew I couldn’t pay for.
I pretended it was okay to manipulate an 11-year old into having sex when I
was 21 because of how much he enjoyed it. (I now know this was rape.) I
pretended there was nothing wrong with lying about my HIV status to sex
partners so I wouldn’t scare them away. I pretended acting-out in public
bathrooms was exciting when really it was disgusting. I pretended that
using drugs during sex made it more exciting and heightened eroticism when
actually it was to escape the guilt, shame and disgust I felt about what I
was doing. I pretended I was a caring, compassionate, giving lover in my
relationships when really I was a selfish, self-centered taker unconcerned
with the needs and wants of my partners. Finally, even after my arrest I
still didn’t believe I had a problem with sex. I’d just have to be more
As I think back on this I feel very sad and empty. I feel angry,
frustrated, cheated and alone. In the past I’ve denied or minimized these
feelings and experiences, or I’ve used drugs and alcohol to numb them. Now
that I’m clean and sober I’m beginning to get in touch with the pain this
disease has caused me.
* * *
My preoccupation with sex goes back to the 5th grade. All the boys started
wearing boxer shorts that year, and no one would be caught dead in briefs.
My first erections were associated with putting boxers on and the two
quickly became connected in my mind. I spent much of my time thinking about
the other boys in their shorts and trying to catch glimpses of them.
By 8th or 9th grade I was obsessed, spending hours each day on the watch.
I would take my memories home and masturbate multiple times imagining these
guys having sex with their boxers on. This continued daily through high
school. Ever since, my boxer-short fetish has constantly driven me. It is
annoying, powerful and cruelly demanding, and I have spent years being
bullied by it.
At college in Ohio I discovered guys having sex with other guys in the
bathrooms all over campus. I was immediately hooked, and went there every
day for the next five years having sex several times a day, sometimes
sitting for hours when nothing was happening; just waiting. I’d think about
sex when in class. Sex was constantly on my mind. I thought I was really
enjoying myself, and I didn’t realize how much time I was losing in those
bathrooms, or how empty the experiences actually were.
I’d spend hours each week cruising the park near campus. The hunt meant
everything to me, even more than the sex. When I moved back to San Diego
after college this pattern continued. On days off I’d spend all day driving
to different cruising areas all over town on the hunt. I’d drop by an
acting-out place on the way to work and end up late. I’d take overly long
lunches at home, losing myself in masturbation, getting in trouble back at
work. My preoccupation with sex was all-consuming. It never occurred to me
to challenge my opinion that sex was the greatest thing in the world. Sex
was my Higher Power, and I was truly devoted. I didn’t know or even begin
to understand how dishonest I was being with myself, or how awful I really
felt inside. I am amazed at my denial. When I think back over my most
recent acting-out history, the recent years of using crystal and the needle
to jet-fuel my sex drive, and as I think of the three- and four-day sex/drug
binges with trashy people week after week after week, my pain becomes very
real for me. It was awful at the end. Dirty, disgusting, degrading and
I am very aware that I am still preoccupied with sex most of the time.
When outdoors I constantly catch myself sexualizing the people I see. I
still have numerous sex dreams each week.
I have found I cannot control these feelings, thoughts and behaviors,
although I sure have tried. As a boy I tried to control my excessive
masturbation for years, but to no avail. I remember being very frustrated
by this, and beginning to feel afraid and ashamed, thinking something was
wrong with me.
During high school I prayed to have my constant thoughts of guys removed
from me, and I tried desperately to stop thinking about sex so much; again
to no avail.
For the next ten years after high school I repeatedly attempted to control
the amount of time I spent in parks, or cruising in general. Over and over
again I’d ask myself, “How did I end up here again? Why can’t I stop doing
this?” Yet I couldn’t stop, and I knew it. I needed that sexual fix more
than anything, even when it became apparent I wasn’t even enjoying it; that
it was actually destroying me.
I had forgotten about these control attempts. Denial is like that. How sad
I feel at having wasted all this time fighting a losing battle I didn’t know
I was losing; a battle I could not win.
My sex addiction negatively affected every area of my life. One of these was
the integrity of my work. While working as a bellman and as a front desk
clerk at a large resort hotel by the beach, I made sexual advances to or
sexual innuendo towards many customers in the two years I worked there.
This has continued at other jobs. When I made parts runs in the company
truck for the boatyard where I worked I’d end up cruising. I’ve already
related one of those experiences. I’ve missed work or been late to work
because of going to acting-out places on the way. Or, if I was still with a
trick on Monday morning, I’d call in sick. The quality of work at all my
jobs was less than it could have been because of the hours I spend sexually
day-dreaming on the job. The quality of my college education was probably
cut in half because of the incredible amount of time I spend acting-out
I am amazed remembering this. It is incredible to me the amount of risk I
was willing to take with these jobs, and, because of the denial, it didn’t
even seem particularly risky at the time, I’ll say it once again: I was
being driven by an urge I couldn’t control, an urge that was such a part of
me by this time I had finally accepted it as just the way I am. Never did I
think something could be done about it.
Another area seriously affected by my sex addiction was my social life. My
close friends started seeing less and less of me as I started spending more
and more time cruising. Of course I was lying to them about where I spent
all this time and this, combined with my carefully hidden homosexuality,
forced a decline in the quality of my friendships. My friends were
wonderful people, and I felt phony, ashamed and undeserving of their
Gradually I left my circle of friends completely and began living and
socializing with the low-life types I felt were more my equals. By the time
the end came I was living exclusively with other addicts as I became
completely consumed by the disease.
It is painful remembering how I sold myself out to this addiction. I had no
idea I had an illness. I suffered horribly thinking I was a defective
person; born a sick pervert. I am extremely angry at being led so far
astray. Until now I had intellectualized, justified and rationalized my
behaviors, minimized the consequences and denied the destruction going on
inside me at a very fundamental level.
* * *
When I was a boy I felt very awkward and afraid. I didn’t have any
brothers, and my father was not around very much. I yearned for a male role
model, and not finding one I became very shy and withdrawn. I felt very
different from everybody else. My feelings were fragile and overly
sensitive. I felt strange and alien. I felt I didn’t and couldn’t fit in.
Discovering erotic pleasure instantly fixed me and I immediately escaped
into a sexual fantasyland. Here I was safe. Here I felt good. Here they
couldn’t hurt me. Later, when I began having sex with others, I finally
found the validation that was always missing before. Here I was accepted.
Here I belonged. Here I could and did fit in.
I escaped into sex, running away from my feelings, and the worse I felt, the
more sex I had. A vicious cycle had begun, and years passed before I
realized the sex itself was making me feel bad. Once again my denial had
prevented me from identifying this. Sex fixed me, and I’ve had a hard time
admitting it’s not working anymore.
For years I had blamed homosexuality for my suffering. This was the subtle
subterfuge my disease used to hide itself. It made me think that being Gay
was a sick, dirty and perverted thing. It made me think being Gay was sex
in restrooms, hundreds of anonymous partners, no possible hope of love or
happiness, a lonely and empty life. This trick worked so well I strenuously
exerted myself fighting homosexuality, trying desperately to change my
orientation. I believed if I could become heterosexual my pain would end.
I lost the battle to change my orientation and grew to loathe homosexuality
and, therefore, myself. To escape the pain of this, of course, I travelled
further into my addiction. What a cunning enemy my disease is!
My physical health had suffered. Becoming HIV positive over four years ago
because of unsafe acting-out practices has caused serious health
consequences. I had abused drugs and alcohol for twelve years escaping the
pain of my addiction and this, too, has had serious health consequences.
My mental health had suffered. The loss of my self-respect and self-esteem,
the collapse of my self-reliance and the general hopelessness from
demoralization had led me to the point of a critical emotional crisis.
My spiritual health had suffered. I had developed strong resentments
against God, blaming Him for my sexual problems and hating Him for making me
Other people had suffered. Lovers were hurt, unable to understand why I
cheated on them. Friends were hurt as I pulled away or disappeared without
explanation. Family were hurt as I became aloof, secretive and emotionally
absent. Employers were hurt as they saw their trust betrayed and the
quality of my work decline.
My finances had suffered. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on condoms, lube,
sex toys, pornography, prostitutes, hotel rooms, gasoline, video booths,
fetish items, drugs and alcohol, court costs, medical expenses, therapy
costs and voluntary institutionalization fees.
My disease has been terribly destructive. I did not have enough power to
stop it, for the only tool I had was my willpower, and my willpower proved
repeatedly to be incapable of stopping this compulsion. My life became
crippled and unmanageable. I am powerless over sexual compulsion. To
recover I had to find some other power to help me, and it had to be a Power
greater than myself.
I found that Power right inside my own consciousness — the last place I
ever dreamed of looking for it. Inside my own being I found the Creator
Himself; a loving, caring, nurturing God waiting to help me if only I’d ask.
This Power had already relieved me of my drug addiction and alcoholism after
twelve years of abuse, so it only made sense He could remove my sexual
compulsion as well. I further figured anything that powerful must be able
to run my life better than my own painful attempts, and so I make a decision
each day to allow God to enter and guide my life.
Presently I’m beginning a Fourth Step inventory. As I found out in other
Twelve Step programs, my addiction is but a symptom of the real problem, and
to truly recover I must discover the causes and conditions of that symptom.
I must identify them, admit them, and then, perhaps most difficult, become
willing to let God remove them. Am I ready to let go of lust or my fetish
desires? How about my feelings of inadequacy that make me seek validation
in anonymous sex? Or the shame that keeps me imprisoned in the obsessive /
compulsive cycle? I’m still afraid to let go, but I get more willing each
day as I learn to trust my Higher Power.
Of course I harmed many people in my disease, and amends need to be made,
but that is several Steps away. It’s great just being in the process, and
it doesn’t matter to me which particular Step I’m working on, for each one
holds a blessing. I’ve received tremendous healing from this Program in the
eight months I’ve been attending meetings. I have been able to stay away
from acting-out places. Most of my compulsive sexual behaviors have
stopped. My obsessive thoughts are beginning to lessen. Following my sex
plan I’ve begun dating and socializing; breaking out of isolation. I’m
beginning to relax, to really like myself, to feel moments of real peace.
I am very grateful for the SCA Program and my friends in the Fellowship who
have given me so much support. I truly believe it is possible to recover
from sexual compulsion and to live a happy, peaceful and satisfying life.