Jim M (St Louis)
The Tools of the SCA Fellowship are the actions we take to prepare ourselves for, and to maintain, the gift of sobriety. We believe that abstinence, or "being on our sexual recovery plan", is contingent upon our spiritual fitness, which is the result of the wondrous combination of the Grace of God and the regular use of the tools of our program. Addiction is a disease of denial and isolation: denial that we are powerless over our compulsive sexual behavior and isolation from a community that loves and supports us. The power of going to meetings is that, in hearing other sex addicts tell their experiences, a spiritual shift in perception takes place where it is no longer the other person, but the listener who becomes aware of his or her own powerlessness over sexual compulsion. It is at meetings where members realize they do not suffer alone, and that the love and compassion shared there is ultimately what heals us.
I started sexual recovery in November 1985 and had a spiritual awakening at my first meeting. I clearly remember realizing that my addiction was not all my fault, and this was a miracle in itself. Until my first meeting, I had led a life driven by guilt and shame. I felt completely hopeless after trying everything that I was aware of to stop my addictive behavior. Anonymous sexual encounters in public places were my drug of choice. I had been to therapists, tried various religions, read self-help books, made countless promises and deals with myself, etc., but always returned to the same old acting out patterns, which led to self-contempt and kept me from growing emotionally and spiritually. In the addictive cycle, there was no way for me to feel good about me. I had not identified the shame that was driving my compulsive behavior and continued acting it out unconsciously. It was during the first years of recovery that I received the grace to realize that I was born into an addictive family system, and that my acting out was a survival mechanism which had long outgrown it’s purpose and was out to destroy me. Today I know that addiction is a disease and not a moral issue. I am not a "bad" person, but someone with a disease, who can be abstinent and heal with the help of the Fellowship and the 12 Steps. Meetings reinforce my recovery on every level and provide the opportunities to practice and take the actions of love.
Today, I view sobriety as my link to my Higher Power. The way for me to maintain that link is to attend meetings on a regular basis, do service work, have a home group, talk to my sponsor or trusted recovering addicts daily, and use the tools of the program on a regular basis. It is at meetings where I can learn how to apply the 12 Steps by hearing the experiences of other recovering addicts. The miracle of the program has been that I can get out of a meeting today what I thought I needed when I was acting out. What was I really longing for in my addiction? Relief from the pain; acceptance, camaraderie, a feeling a connection, a sense of life and love. Today, God gives me these very things every time I go to a meeting. It’s the cheapest miracle in town. Two favorite lines of mine are "People who stop going to meetings don’t get to hear what happens to people who stop going to meetings" and "SLIP = Sobriety lost its priority".
Randy P (NY)
A trusted friend invited me to my first SCA meeting. Curious and willing, I sat down, which for me was a major feat. As a former volunteer in the ranks of commando sleaze, I was too busy anticipating my next sexual encounter to do something as simple as sit down and listen. The atmosphere of calm focus and predictability is always a refreshing change. I soon learned that within each meeting I could leave my ego demands at the door and absorb the spiritual nature of the fellowship. After my first hurtle at that meeting, I was gently told I was in the right place. How did they know? Was my compulsion that obvious? I knew at a gut level that the gig was up. No more sleaze. It was suggested that I learn to listen and listen to learn.
I found that meetings provide a safe space where I can break my self-absorbed isolation, learn to trust myself and others while taking the opportunity to (as one member put it), "bare our souls". Early on, it was suggested that I make a meeting plan, deciding in advance which meeting I could attend each week. Like a sex plan, the meeting plan would help me to avoid making the spontaneous choice not to attend a meeting. The decision would have been made in advance. So using sober feet to walk to my meetings, my not-so-sober-thinking couldn’t lure me back into isolation. I remember the suggestion about going to meetings: there are only two times when you should go to a meeting, when you want to and when you don’t. I need these simple slogans as guide posts on the road to sobriety.
I entered SCA when the program was about one year old. Three weekly meetings existed. I started with the Saturday night meeting on St Mark’s Place, in the East Village. Ten or so people gathered around a table in a brightly-lit storefront. No one had long term sobriety or even knew how to maintain sexual sobriety. Frequently, the participants reported recent sexual escapades, not realizing how triggering such descriptions could be. Our Literature consisted of one piece of paper listing the meetings, and what was to become the Characteristics. Our primary focus was abstention. How were we going to stay sober sexually? Most of us acknowledged these early meetings to be part of the answer to a killer disease, sexual addiction, which was enabling other physical diseases to ravage the gay and straight communities. We were alarmed for our fellows and ourselves.
Much of the wisdom and insight we now incorporate into our fellowship was not in place at that time. Recognizing our seemingly overwhelming feeling states, and our impulse to escape their apparent potency, was not a large part of our understanding. Topics like anger, romantic obsession, shame, and incest were yet to emerge. We just wanted to abstain from the destructive behaviour. Our tools became the sex plan and mutual support, within and outside our meetings.
The first time one of us shared anger in an intense way (it came out as a shriek, almost a scream or yell) it shook our collective perception as to the depth and intimacy that could be shared within a meeting. That moment helped me to remember forever the phrase that "there is nothing so large, or an emotion so heavy that the meeting can not absorb it".
At times, identifying with the feelings of fellow members and giving support would shift my focus from the need to share. I had to define what it is I need from this meeting for my sexual sobriety and sanity today. Often I find that the healing aspect of sharing doesn’t depend on what I say or how articulate I am. Rather, it comes down to my practicing HOW, Honesty, Openness, Willingness, in order for me to dissipate some of those potent emotions that may, if unexpressed, fester and explode in an acting out scenario. When emotionally challenging times hit, I prescribe a meeting a day for myself. I have the self-diagnosed disease of sexual compulsion. My medication is meetings. If I don’t receive my medication, it is likely the disease will become more active and my life will become unmanageable.
The suggestion of going to 90 meetings in 90 days originated with Bill Wilson, the co- founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill worked in the business world where 90 days contracts were common. AA also tells us that 90 days are required for the brain stem to be clear of alcohol.
Through many meeting, over time, I have observed that our meetings are self-supporting in more than just financial ways. We are also self-supporting emotionally and spiritually. We can give each other the kind of support only another addict can provide, because we "know", we have been there too.