A simple answer to this question could be, “I am here because I have to be”, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The pain of repeatedly hitting bottom lines was enough to get me in the door, but never enough to keep me inside.
My past was destructive and abusive. When I was less than five years old, my mother burned my hand with a hot spoon to punish me because she thought by doing so she would teach me perfect obedience. When I was six I was sexually abused in a very painful way by a nine-year-old cousin. The abuse became more widespread, first other cousins started abusing me, and then others of them offered me to friends of theirs and to people in the neighborhood for their abusive pleasure. Individuals in school started to abuse me. The emotional abuse that followed the sexual abuse was worse. When people understood that I was abused, I was mocked, teased, beaten, threatened, and treated as a piece of garbage. In family, at school, at work, wherever I went I faced sexual abuse, and if that couldn’t be perpetrated, then emotional and physical abuse. Even in my own home I was not safe. The relative who abused me also taught me how to masturbate and that was how I chose to cope with my feelings and difficulties.
And so started my sick embrace of reality—running from it, hiding inside myself, in a fantasy world of sex, masturbation and lust. When I was 15, I decided to stop all the sexual behaviors in my life. I didn’t let anybody else abuse me and I tried to stop sexually acting out. I did all I could but I could not stop, even for a week; I was devastated and suicidal. At school I gradually lost the ability to learn so I dropped out. I lost the ability to socialize and became very isolated. I was angry and resentful at almost everything—myself, my parents, my family, the world, life and God. I had severe nervous breakdowns and through this series of horrors I came to believe that I had a problem that I was unable to solve by myself; I remember hoping that this nightmare called my life would soon finish. Imagine living your life just wishing for death.
When I joined SA, it took me a while to realize what the program was about and what was required of me. With time however, I began to change, and when I changed, life changed. And soon enough I came that, by the Grace of God and by this program of SA, there is indeed a solution, a remedy for this disease and the pain.
After ten years of trying without success to stop and after a life-long experience of terrible pain, I was convinced that I would die from this disease. What a relief to find a solution that worked. And I figured, if SA is a solution for a disease such as this, then there has to be a solution for my other difficulties as well, of whatever sort.
Another huge source of relief was sharing some of my deepest secrets with my fellows. Before this I used to think that I was the only one who had done the things I had done and that if anyone knew my secrets they would reject me just like others had done. The pain and loneliness of carrying such shame always made me feel inferior and hate myself. But my sponsor explained that there is nothing I have done that someone else with this disease has not done, somewhere, at some point, and that my acting-out behaviors came from my disease, not from me as the person I really am; and that, no matter what, I am God’s, His precious child. So God blessed me with huge relief from toxic guilt and shame. Where else could I find such relief in this context but in this program?
In Step Two a lifelong paradox for me was solved. I came to believe in a Higher Power who is loving; who is there to help me and who wants me to live happily, joyous and free.
When I worked Step Four, a dream came true. I could experience living without resentments and fears. A life filled with resentment and fear is not life; it’s just about a half-life, I would say. I know of no other remedy for the scale and depths of resentments that I have; they are deadly. For the first time in a long time, I felt love toward others in my heart; I could look them in the eye and make deep, healthy connections. I believe Step Four was the beginning of my recovery; after this, everything started improving.
By working Step Nine, making my amends, another miracle happened. Little by little I began to like myself. I have hated myself for most of my life because of the abuse I allowed others to perpetrate on me and also because of what I had done to others and all I had lost along the way. I don’t know how this particular Step helped me so much to distinguish my real self from the sick person I was, but it did. The Hamed I knew before the Steps was a very superficial man, incapable, sick, crazy, insane, abusive and a liar. But after working the Steps I came to believe that I am a precious child of God who has an important role in this world and who is indeed a very capable individual. This is why I am so motivated to help others who cannot help themselves.
Working Steps 11 and 12 also helped me towards healthier ideas, beliefs and attitudes. Life before the program was relentless torment, a toxic stew of anger, fighting, danger, lies, abuse, fear. The program helped me believe in a purposeful life, provided the space and nutrition to grow, to help others, to experience love and integrity; to find happiness, joy and freedom. This was more than I had been looking for when I first came in the door.
Completing the SA Steps, opened the way to working on other problems in life as well. I worked the Steps of DA, and I’m now working the Steps of CoDA and UA. These are helping me a lot. So much has changed in my life. Some of my old dreams have become reality, like being able to speak and write in English. Life is not always perfect, nor am I; but I don’t have to be perfect; as long as I work this program, I continue to make healthy progress, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly …
By working the Steps of SA—and the Steps of other programs, as necessary—my life is precious to me; a wonderful journey through all the ups and downs of life, but always in reality with God in charge.
I came into the program trying to get away from resentment and rage; what I found was peace; peace with myself and peace with others.
I came into the program to find freedom from masturbation and acting out, even for one day; what I discovered was that sex is optional, even sex with my wife; moreover, I can help others achieve freedom from this disease of sexual obsession and compulsion.
I came into the program to get free from thinking about my abuse and my abusers; today, not only can I forgive, but I contribute significantly to the quality of life of others similarly afflicted by memories of abuse and their abusers.
I came into the program to find a way to endure life. Instead I tapped into a source of wonderful hope, happiness, growth, love and the chance to continue growing, so long as I continue working the program a day at a time.
I came into the program trying not to hate myself anymore. What I discovered was that I am a worthwhile person and precious child of God.
I came into the program looking for peace from a vengeful, judging, punishing God. Instead I came to believe in a God of pure love who is mad about me and wants me, all of me; Who wants a life of happiness, joy and freedom for me.
I came into the program to learn not to beat myself up; instead I found a way to build myself up.
These might all sound like trite slogans, but if they are, working the Steps is where they come true.