Carrying The Message: What An Adventure!

To seek spiritual progress, I must continue to work the Steps with my sponsor. I must continue reading questions, reflecting and writing answers no matter how many times I’ve done this before. This time around, I found a few Twelfth-step questions online— about reaching out to other sexaholics and how the 12-step program has worked for me.

When I first joined SA in the early 1990s, there was no Internet or local phone number to call for help. I learned about the program from my therapist, who was in SA, and brought me to my first meeting. Someone must have mentioned the Steps and the part about carrying the message, but I homed in on the sobriety definition.

No masturbation? Outrageous! I went home and told my second wife, a progressive thinker like myself, and she agreed.

I joined the program to eliminate problems, improve the marriage and then live happily ever after. I hadn’t yet realized how much of a perfectionist I was or that life ain’t no fairy tale.

I began to accept the sobriety definition, however, as I was smart enough to realize I was running out of options. I needed a sponsor but couldn’t (wouldn’t?) find one. No Buddy List back then. Email wasn’t even a thing. I didn’t yet have the clarity to consider calling SAICO to inquire about a long-distance sponsor. I’m not sure I even realized there was a central office or worldwide fellowship.

At the local meeting I attended, I found another struggling member and relative newcomer who was also looking for a sponsor. We commenced to working the Steps together, using a general recovery workbook. We’d meet in his or my car to discuss what we had written. An excerpt from my initial First Step reflection: “I am powerless over this illness. It seems like the last couple of weeks, my alter ego addict wants to control the addiction. I suppose I still don’t believe that I deserve better. I used to think or rationalize that I wasn’t as bad off as others, but now I’m thinking my acts were even worse … I must be missing something because I’m not completely ready to surrender things over. Part of me still wants to sabotage the progress the other part of me has made … I know in Steps Two and Three I have to confront my belief in God and my willingness to surrender to Him.”

A good start, I reckon. Better than nothing, even though I wasn’t ready to work the Steps the right way or for the right reason.

With an ugly trail of financial, emotional, professional and spiritual consequences behind me, I put myself back on the path towards self-destruction. Dabbling: calling phone sex numbers and then not following-through with the transaction; going to strip clubs and a massage parlor but not “acting out;” arranging for a prostitute to visit our home and then sending her away before it was “too late.”

Three years into the second marriage, I revealed these transgressions to my wife. She said she’d never love anybody again. The next day, we talked. We realized I had to get help, that I had to commit to the whole program, for myself – not for the tenuous marriage, but for myself. That was September 1, 1996. My sobriety date, the day I got real.

Today, I realize that “perfect”—a perfect recovery or perfect fellowship—isn’t attainable. Yet, through working the program with the guidance of a sponsor who has a sponsor, I’ve gained what I thought I didn’t deserve way back when: a lot more enlightened self-interest, progressive victory over lust and enthusiasm to carry the message to those who still suffer in North America, Central America, South America or wherever. “Tengo ganas,” as they say in Spanish; it means to really want something. And I really wanted sobriety and recovery.

Today, as I continue to work the program, I enjoy more intimacy with my wonderful wife of 26 years. We’ve been abstinent for more than 20 of those. We’ve grown individually and together. We’ve traveled to SA International conventions, and she has met some of my fellow trudgers. She has even learned some Spanish.

I’ve relied upon the amigos and amigas I’ve made. My program friends are my spiritual lifeline as I strive for SA unity and to carry the message.

I respect, admire and applaud the AAs and SAs who had the courage to change and to create counter-culture fellowships to save lives like mine. Though I bristled at the sobriety definition when I first heard it, I’m forever grateful for the SA members who right away set me straight on an approach that works.

Working my program today includes service work, something I was reluctant to do in the early years. I hadn’t taken to heart the part about carrying the message to others—that doing so meant more than sharing my story at my home group.

In the past year, my home group and our fellowship here in New England has fractured. There was little service rotation, and several wonderful, intelligent and kind people have decided they don’t want to be part of SA anymore.

I’ve been praying for patience with myself and for others. My higher power has a plan that I don’t always see. The difficulties of uniting those who have a desire to stop lusting and want to become sober, as well as those who believe and support our sobriety definition and principles, have led me to a deeper connection with my higher power. A more profound spiritual awakening had been waiting for me. My eyes, heart and soul are more open as I contact prospective newcomers.

Serving as the hotline coordinator has helped me get back to the roots of SA and our primary purpose: It’s not just about me and my recovery. Making myself available to someone who’s in distress and who has summoned the courage to ask for help makes me feel grateful for the people who were there for me when I was in trouble. I’m also grateful for the AAs and SAs who established our service structure and who wrote and edited our literature, such as Beginnings… Notes on the Origin and Early Growth of SA.

The rewards of listening to someone who’s lost and looking for help and then guiding that person to recovery leave me feeling more willing to take care of myself and to continue to work the Steps with my sponsees and sponsor.

I find myself more reliant and aware of God’s omnipotence throughout my day. My conscious contact with my higher power has become more frequent as I pray using a book my mom gave me almost twenty years ago; speak Spanish with an SA member in South America; listen to a guided meditation in Portuguese; attend a SA meetings in Portuguese; type program-related passwords on my computer; enjoy a conflict-free dinner with my wife; practice and play the guitar without expecting perfection; call prospective newcomers, other members and my sponsor; participate in the Zoom meetings; ponder becoming a delegate; and pray as I go to sleep.

As a result of having worked the previous Steps, I’m more grateful for the challenges and benefits. I feel blessed with support and look forward to helping others to liberate themselves from lust and to enjoy this life our higher powers have granted us.

The compulsion to harm others and to go to the old haunts have been removed. I rarely wallow in the shame. Broken relationships have been repaired or are, little by little, being restored. My estranged daughter, for example, has now re-entered my orbit.

I’ve shared my story with SAs from all over the world—most recently on a Zoom call with the European fellowship. And before travel and COVID-19 became an issue, I shared my experience, strength and hope with members in Ireland, Manitoba, Seattle, Spain, Tennessee and Texas. Sharing how I’ve worked the Steps at a meeting in a different country or speaking on a topic at an international convention has proven beneficial in all aspects of my life.

Meeting people whom I only knew by an email address or phone number has been fun! I’ve performed music with SAs in other countries. A few of us recently collaborated online to produce a recovery song.!

A few weeks ago, I learned how to say roller coaster in Spanish, “montaña rusa.” Participating in this international fellowship, during the twists and turns and highs and lows has given me such peace, joy and hope.

As we read in Recovery Continues, “What an adventure.” Worth the price of admission.

Jim D., Massachusetts, USA

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