Paul N (Milwaukee)
When I first entered into recovery 4 years ago, I worked a second shift job. The hours I worked were from 2:30 p.m. to 12:40 a.m. I did not live in a large city, so the only meeting I could get to was on Sunday nights. Then, I would have a long week until my next meeting. To further complicate matters, the part of the city I worked in was the heart of the cruisest area of town. It was a struggle to just make it out of the parking lot without picking someone up to act out with. I tried to call members of the program before I left work and commit on a nightly basis to not act out. Many group members needed to be asleep by the time that I left work. Some were able and willing to take my calls, and I am grateful, but most were not. Even when they could it was hard to hear and speak because of the machinery in the factory I worked in. I knew that I had to find a way to stay close to my program each night, or else have a full blown relapse. At the suggestion of another member of my Sunday night meeting, I began to read literature at work. I would often hide it in a folder or binder so that others could not see what I was reading. Many times I would read a story so that I could feel close to another recovering person. As time went on, I would read and reread the steps and try to think about how I was or was not applying them in my life. It got to the point that I was carrying a book bag every day to work and many people assumed that I attended school. I guess I am a slow learner, because I had to read many things over and over again just to make it through the night. The words I read made so much sense. I was amazed that someone else could write so accurately about the things that I felt and experienced. Slowly it got easier to get home each night. In one story I read about a man who had to drive miles out of his way to get to work and avoid old acting out areas. I started to do the same thing. I would drive quickly out of the area near my work even though it was in the opposite direction of my house, and then circle back. It took a little longer, but it worked. That was when I realized that I did not have to make every mistake myself, but could learn from those who went before me. Those who had written down their experience, strength, and hope.
Later, I got a first shift job and could get to more meetings. However, now I felt stressed because of the change in my schedule and new job duties. Acting out once again seemed compelling. I went back to my literature; this time I took a meditation book with me to work every morning. I would wait until I got to the parking lot at work and read the day’s meditation. It was incredible how on many occasions, the reading of the day was just what I needed to read. Throughout the day, I would think of the reading. If I was having a particularly hard day, I would make a photocopy and tape it to my computer to remind me of that day’s message. Literature became a tool to help me bring recovery into all areas of my life and get out of the compartmentalization that had been my life.
I still use literature and the other tools of recovery. The written work of other addicts has been a powerful tool in my recovery and life. Today, I mail literature all over the country to those in need for ISO/SCA. Some may never get to a meeting, but they will know they are not alone.
Patrick C. (Long Island)
Literature has been key to my sexual recovery. I live somewhat remote to meetings and also did a lot of travel for work. Making a phone call or getting to a meeting isn't always that easy. Over the 19 months I have been in this program and my 13 months of sobriety, I have used literature to help me get through everything from the real slippery situations to simply setting focus for the start of another day. Literature has helped me get past denial, release shame and progress in my sobriety.
Just after entering the program I was very compulsive over the breakup with my ex-lover. While flying to San Francisco one morning, I thought I was going to head for the door and jump. Luckily, I had gotten some SCA literature the previous night at a meeting and had put it in my carryon. As I started to read the softbound Blue Book I started to gain back strength and some level of serenity. That whole experience was my meeting at 33,000 feet.
There are so many different types of literature that I have gotten my hands on over the time I've been in program. In some cases I'll read to help me stay sober at that moment, while sitting in an airport, in a hotel room, or while at home. It is a healthy alternative to getting on the phone line, lusting after the cute guy who just walked by, reading where the gay hot spots are in this new city I'm in, or heading for some other opportunity to act out.
Other times I read literature specific to understanding sex addiction or addictive compulsive behaviour. When I realized my life was unmanageable, I sought professional help. I interviewed three therapists. The last one I thought was a bit rough on me in the interview. He told me go home and read Patrick Carnes’ book Out of the Shadows. Did I ever recognize myself in that book! It was academic at that point to me that I needed help, which led me back to him and ultimately to SCA.
I read books I find in the self help section of the bookstore, books that are recommended to me by someone who heard my share at a meeting, and books on how 12-step program work. I also read on other addictions and literature from other programs to help understand my cross addictions.
A huge part of my success in this program is taking a day at a time and turning my will over to my Higher Power, keeping the focus on now, not what has been or what will be. Each day I start with a reading from Answers in the Heart, a book of daily meditations on recovery from sexual additions. It takes 3 minutes each morning and renews my commitment that day to my sobriety and in turning my will over to my God. Back in my days at Catholic high school I remember having brought to my attention that typically, we pray to "The God of Need" rather than "The God of Love." Instead of praying to my God and asking for what I want, this book of meditations helps me keep my focus on trusting my Higher Power, therefore praying to that God of Love that His will be done knowing I will be okay in His hands.
No mention of literature would be complete without including Hope and Recovery or The Fourfold. I look at the Fourfold as the pocket guide to recovery, or the SCA first aid kit. It's small, pretty inclusive and can be within reach. I keep one in my desk at work, in my car and in my night table. It keeps me reminded I am a sex addict as well as what it means to be one, and has the makings of a mini-meeting if I need one. Hope and Recovery has everything I need outside a meeting to do step work, have a meeting between meetings, meditate, and ultimately helps me stay sober.