I was exposed to men’s magazines at the age of seven and didn’t realize it was abuse. At the age of nine, I was sexually abused by another girl, who was 10, and experienced a lot of confusion. The confusion increased when I was sort of forcibly converted to Catholicism at the age of 11, which led to a whole load of guilt.
So I was pretty confused and I think the fuse was lit, as SA’s founder, Roy K, used to say. When I was 14 years old, I was babysitting at a very smart college professor’s house and discovered a lot of “literary pornography” and couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to do with the feelings. But I got that power, that feeling of invincibility. All those little neurons in my brain lit up, although I actually didn’t have the nerve, or really the inclination, to do anything physically about it.
Things were pretty conflicted in my family after I became a teenager. We moved to a different part of the country. I had a lot of responsibilities as a teen. I had a brother who was mentally ill and always falling into situations, thereby hurting himself. I felt responsible for him and the other problems in my family, but, any rate, I kept my head above water.
Things kind of went along and I was in a class play—a very historical, well-regarded play about a situation during World War II, and I got to play a flirt. And there it started. I had to kiss somebody and I didn’t want to kiss him and I thought “I’m terrified.” You know, it’s like a peck on the cheek, but the way the character I played inhabited this sense of entitlement and power, I thought “Whoa, there’s something there.” I did not act on that impulse but I liked it.
When I was a senior in high school, I met somebody and kind of fell head over heels in love. A foreign student, very handsome, kind of troubled like me, but there was very little actual sex conduct. So for about 11 weeks, it seemed really great, and then this young adult got in trouble with his American family and he had to leave the country. He came out to British Columbia, which is pretty close to where I live in Washington, but I was devastated.
I didn’t know what to do with those feelings. I had been invited to go out with my friends who were drinking on a regular basis, and they kept inviting me and I kept keeping it off. I knew they were just getting blotto. I had never gotten drunk.
But the very first day this young man left, I got drunk that night. I didn’t quite blackout, but I just loved having that moment in time where I could forget who I was, how I felt and the enormous sadness of whatever had happened to me.
And that repeated itself through the next seven or eight months. I stopped caring about theater. I stopped caring about my violin. I stopped caring about myself. I was now the proud owner of hangovers every morning. And like a lot of people I swore off. I swore off on my birthday. I wasn’t going to drink anymore. I wasn’t going to smoke cigarettes anymore because I knew I was getting hooked.
So by July 28, 1971, I quit drinking, but then of course I moved in with lust. I went to college and was terrified to be at this gigantic school with 45,000 people. I lived in a dormitory with 899 other students where we could mill around freely. My number-one objective was to have a boyfriend and to have a regular sex life. I found that I had a lot of power, or so I thought. That power was in exchange for low self-esteem. Doing whatever I thought I could do, and being completely unable to control my behavior, drunk or sober.
I was 12-Stepped into SA by the Dear Abby column. Liliana M. and I (and maybe there were others) were two folks who read the column written by Roy K., who signed himself by “Set free in LA.” By that time I was in multiple relationships. I was like a junkie. I had to have physical contact with different individuals. I remember one week there were four different people. And again, I just thought, “Oh my God, how did this happen?”
I thought I would go clean, not having other relationships. I wanted to be somebody I could respect. And I came to the conclusion that I would go to any lengths to be that person. I decided I would give up sex one day at a time for the rest of my life. When I made that decision, conveniently, the poor man I was engaged to broke up with me. That morning, when I dropped him off at the airport, was the first day of my sexual sobriety.
I kept in contact with Roy. I would call him when I was really in a fix. People would call me and would write me letters. I got calls from Jesse L. and thought, “Why are you calling me?” And, it turned out that he got sober literally a month after I did. Some of you older members might remember him. He said, “Katherine, don’t worry. God’s not going to leave you without all the promises. But we must be patient and wait.” I think a lot of us come to SA, and we say, “When am I gonna get my family back”? “When am I going to be able to be married?” “When am I going to have sex again?” Let’s be honest. The Promises do come true, but in God’s time, not ours. One day at a time.
I didn’t really have a SA sponsor at the time. I did get sober in Alcoholics Anonymous, which was a great help to me because I never ever would have been able to maintain sexual sobriety while I was drinking. Although I did try for a few weeks and months.
I was able to get sponsors in AA but I didn’t really have an SA sponsor to walk me through our Steps until I went, against my better judgment of course, to the St. Louis conference in 1986. That’s where I met Sylvia J., Jesse L. and other people, some of whom stayed sober, some of whom did not. Meantime, I was doing little things like going on a lunch date with somebody. At two years of sobriety that was a big deal! It wasn’t until I really got with you guys, that I was able to have the Promises realized for me. It certainly began in St. Louis.
I went back home to live. I went to live with my Dad because I had crashed and burned and I thought I’ll just move back home to Washington and I’ll get a job quickly—which didn’t happen. My Dad was the first person I lived with, so to speak, in sobriety, and I had a chance. That was an amends for me. Our relationship was very conflicted; I did not have a good experience with him as a child and a teen.
“The Family Afterwards” (AA ch. 9) finally happened for me at about five years sober. I met my husband one week later after I had gone to the Rochester conference in 1988. We had no sex before marriage. I was able to do that with the help of Sexaholics Anonymous. Sylvia was my matron of honor when I got married, which was a dream come true. It was incredible and I knew my husband loved me and I loved him. He would always say to me, “Katherine, I love you for who you are and what you are.” I needed to hear that over and over and over and I still feel that way today. My husband has never criticized any of the many failures that I’ve had. Not here in SA, not with alcoholism recovery, job losses, getting in trouble at work, and of course, dealing with my mental illness, which became very bad after my second baby. Postpartum depression. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t get any help for four years.
One of the promises for me was going on a family vacation with all my kids—a vacation my husband planned that I tried to talk him out of. And we did that a month ago. We live about an hour and a half from the Pacific Ocean and we went to the beach and we all got a cabin. My daughter the addict, and the younger one, and it was Heavenly. I’ve waited many years to feel like I actually wanted to do this.
So, if you’re wondering, “Does God want me?” Yes, He wants you! Hang in there! I am here to tell you it is real. The Promises are real. Sobriety and a life beyond our wildest dreams is real because I’m here. I get to be with you wonderful people and live a life I could never have even thought of. Welcome to all the new people. It will get better. So thank you so much. I’ve been sober since February 7, 1983 and I’m never sufficiently grateful!