Our experience of sex addiction is one of lethality. Those of us who were successful with this program first had to see that it was killing us. We have seen others in the fellowship die of sex addiction. Many times it looked like suicide. Sometimes it looked like a heart attack or stroke because we neglected our health. Sometimes we caught diseases directly from our addictive sexual behaviors. These diseases sometimes killed us. Some of us, while in active addiction, saw the very real possibility of being shot by a jealous spouse, stabbed by a pimp, beaten to death in a murphy scam or maybe even shivved in prison. Whatever the eventual method, we each had to see our eminent death by this disease before we were willing, honest and open-minded enough to work the program like our lives depended on it.
We have seen the best results from this program when the newcomer has “the desperation of a drowning man.” A drowning man has but two options: find something that keeps his head above water, or die. This meant that we tried every other means at our disposal to stop. This was our last viable option. We like to say “It was the last house on the block.” Many of us had already tried therapy, religion or managing the external world so that we could avoid temptation. We needed something else, because these efforts failed to keep our obsession in check.
Our program is not psychotherapy. It is not a religion. It is not a method of managing external temptation (“triggers”). Our program is something else entirely. Many of us, as newcomers, lost hope when we heard, in 12 Step meetings, the same old methods we had already attempted through therapy, church, treatment or our own will-power. It was unfortunate that there was not a strong 12 Step fellowship there to support and direct us in the 12 Step Program. This is why it is so important to know when we are speaking in a meeting that we speak only about our program of recovery. It is important that we do not dilute it by blending it with programs and methods that are not our own, programs and methods that the desperate newcomer may have already tried.
Dr. Bob; one of the co-founders of the 12 Step movement, once said, “It is better that we do one thing well, than many things poorly.” It is probably a good idea for us to know what our “inside issues” are, since we have no opinion on outside issues. The fact is we have only one inside issue: how to carry our one message to the real sex addict who still suffers. Our one message is: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,…” Since the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous was written to state what actions define the 12 steps,(reference, “Why the Big Book of A.A.?”), we can deduce that anything not reconcilable to the first 164 pages of the A.A. Big Book is probably an outside issue. This Tradition, in essence, reminds us to “mind our own business.” In “our business” we do only one thing: We carry the message, “We had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps”, to the sex addict who still suffers.
The long form of this Tradition names several outside issues in particular: politics, religion and alcohol reform. This does not restrict outside issues to these subjects alone. These were merely the subjects that commonly violated the 10th Tradition at the time that it was written. We avoid discussion of these things for several reasons. The greatest being that they are issues that depend heavily on opinion. The variance of opinion is one of the major causes of argument and fighting in society. We expand our humility by avoiding the need to be right. How can we be “right” about an opinion, anyway? Opinions are subjective. In this way we avoid self-righteousness.
One of the biggest ways we violate this Tradition today is discussion of psycho-therapy. An entire Tradition is dedicated to that topic (Tradition 8). Psycho-therapy is not 12 Step. 12 Step is not psycho-therapy. We most certainly should never discuss in our meetings what our therapist tells us. We should never discuss a therapists opinion of how to work the Steps, particularly if those directions conflict with the A.A. Big Book. And if a Therapist is giving us advice on our 12 Step program, then we should most certainly consider changing therapists. And while popular psychology books can be very insightful and interesting, they too are an outside issue which should never be brought up in a meeting.
Many of us wondered why we had such a hard time with sobriety in the beginning of our recovery. We eventually found, as real sex addicts, the only thing that would remove our obsession was a spiritual awakening. There are many ways to bring that about, but most of us had tried those methods before we came to S.A.A. or at least before we found this path. We could not understand why we could not get sober using the methods we saw others applying successfully. We were working these methods with sincerity and desperation. We were fortunate enough to find this truth – If it cannot be reconciled with the first 164 pages of the the A.A. Big Book, then it’s probably not 12 Step. It was then that we realized the programs/methods we were working were not the program that set the 12 Step movement in motion. Upon closer examination we saw that these methods being handed to us had origins in the treatment center and therapeutic industries, all being represented to us as actual 12 Step. The resocialization program is one of the more popular. This recovery program can be identified by over-emphasis on meeting attendance (refer to our article “What is the purpose of 12 Step meetings”), making phone calls, “hanging with winners” and accountability partners.
Another popular program within our fellowship that is not 12 Step is the “Minnesota Model.” It does not require the individual to have a desire to stop. It takes the approach that the newcomer will be convinced by methods of intervention. The most popular of the intervention methods is having the newcomer write his/her sex history in detail and confess it to his/her home group. While these are some very interesting and novel ideas, the only opinion we should have about them is that they are not the 12 Step program.
Another commonly heard outside issue is “healthy sexuality.” We did not come to S.A.A. to find healthy sexuality. We walked in the doors of our first meeting with a desire to stop our addictive sexual behaviors. Our only solution is a spiritual awakening that results from working the Twelve Steps, the actions of which are described specifically by the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. None of that work mentions pursuing a “healthy sexual outlet.” The psycho-therapeutic and treatment industries would have us believe that a healthy sexual outlet is necessary. Observing the many monastic orders around the world and the experience of many of our single members (and some of our married members) dispels this illusion. We see from our own experience that we have lost the power of choice in sex. No where in the A.A. Big Book does it tell us that our power of choice is returned with regard to our addiction. This means that we can never again manage our sex lives. Pursuit of “healthy sexuality” was nothing more than an attempt to do that very thing.
We do not wish to give the impression that we have formed a judgment on these varied approaches to recovery. We are neither “for” nor “against” any of them. Neither are we saying that they do not work. We are simply stating that they are not the Twelve Step Program and they did not work for us. As such we can offer “no opinion” on them nor should we be discussing them in our meetings or privately under the pretense of working the 12 Steps. We have seen time and again our own arrogance arise when we try to be all things to all people. Humility demands that we only teach the path in which we were successful – out of our own experience. To teach others how to recover by a means that didn’t work for us is to gamble with the very lives of those who come to us for help. We wish to encourage those who wish to work these alternative programs for recovery. We believe they should start a fellowship designed to support these programs. Newcomers who balk at our program could be promptly sent to these other fellowships. In this way we can regain our integrity as a 12 Step fellowship and stop merely pretending that we espouse these Traditions
History gives us further insight into this Tradition. It is a lesson learned in large part from a temperance movement called “The Washingtonians.” They stayed sober by telling stories of their drunkenness and meeting regularly (sounds an awful lot like a combination of formal first steps and “meeting makers make it”). Anyone could join as long as they signed a temperance pledge. Their numbers swelled. They had no program of recovery. Re-socialization and reminding each other of their last debacle was the closest thing to a recovery program they had. It worked well for a while. It worked so well that the membership began to think they could solve other social problems as well. Soon they focused their collective power on legislature regarding alcohol reform and social reform. Without a set program of recovery they all eventually began to agree they needed God’s help. This brought the subject of religion into their fellowship. Before long ministers from various churches were contesting that their way was the only way, that other paths meant eternal damnation. Before long, subjective issues were being argued over by members throughout the fellowship. Some of these members were not even real drunks. These were merely folks who signed a temperance pledge. The movement flourished for two or three decades and then all but disappeared.
We of S.A.A. are a 12 Step fellowship. We focus on our 1 common problem of how to stop our addictive sexual behavior. Those who wish to solve other problems are simply in the wrong fellowship. We of S.A.A.P.P. can offer only one solution: a spiritual awakening that results from working the 12 Steps as directed by the Big Book of A.A. and thereby removing our obsession. We are unified around a very specific solution to a very specific problem from which we all suffered. We are not equipped to support any other solution. Those who wish to work a program that differs from those directions are simply in the wrong room. Sticking to these ideals keeps us out of the arrogance of thinking we can solve anyone’s problems by any old method they choose. In other words, we stopped trying to be all things to all people. This Tradition holds us to account by asking us to try only to solve our sex addiction problem and only support the 12 Step program as our solution to that problem. Our only purpose, as a fellowship, is to offer that solution to those who still suffer from the same problem. This is how we, as a fellowship, keep our integrity.