I park on the street and walk around the back of the church, per the instructions on the basic 90’s style website. I reach for the back door handle, and it doesn’t budge. I pull again; still nothing. The doorbell glares at me, and I push it with a reluctant sigh. So this is how my first Sexaholics Anonymous meeting will start.

A man races to the door to let me in, and I have to make eye-contact, have to cue another human into why I’m here, and I follow him into a little room of fluorescent lights and eight men already sitting in a circle — a couple guys my age, a couple slightly older, and a couple even older still.

“Is this your first meeting?” the middle-aged man running the meeting asks me.

“Yeah,” I say, grabbing a seat, looking down.

“Oh, great. That changes the flow of this meeting, but that’s totally fine. We’re glad you’re here.”

For the next twenty minutes, a couple guys share their journeys through sex addiction. They’re all straight guys dealing with straight sex addiction, of course, and I’m still a virgin myself, so while there’s a stark disconnect over the depths and objects of our sexual addiction, I’m also discovering a definitive parallel I very rarely — if ever — walk among straight guys.

They ask if I’d like to share anything from my own story, assuring me there’s no pressure to do so since it’s only my first meeting.

“Sure, why not,” I say, thinking back on father-son church programs and living room devotions and how my innocent little Christian upbringing has led to this. “I’m Tom, and I’m an addict.”

~ ~ ~

Everyone has an introduction. A label. You’re this or you’re that, and if you’re not that then you’re this. We may not like it, but life always has categories. These identifiers help us understand each other, understand ourselves, understand our particular role amid a universe filled with infinite roles and labels and categories and mixed and matched identities.

I currently work for a nonprofit helping teens in recovery, and many of my fellow staff members are in recovery themselves. We recently attended an open recovery meeting in the community, and one of the staff members introduced himself to the room as “an addict.”

“It keeps me humble, man,” he told us afterward. “When I’m in those meetings, it’s not a time for me to be high and prideful about my last decade of sobriety. It’s a time to be real and recognize how deep this thing runs. I have a family now. I have the disease of addiction, and I need connection.”

I’ve taken his sincerity about substance addiction to heart as I consider my own journey through an altogether different — though eerily similar — sort of addiction. And now, recovery.

~ ~ ~

“I’m Tom, and I’m an addict,” I introduce myself.

“Hi, Tom,” the group responds in a sing-songy chorus.

I give the CliffsNotes version of my lustful story, leaving out the slight detail of my same-sex attraction — for now, at least.

“I used to think I was above coming to meetings like this,” I continue, and the guy beside me nods. “I’ve always thought I could figure this out on my own somehow. But masturbation led to pornography led to fantasy — and now, most recently, I’ve been web chatting for entire nights with other people. And . . . I don’t want this to go any further.”

I tell the group about my attending AA meetings for my new job and how inspired I’ve grown by this seemingly tedious process: meeting together in small rooms, reading from the same book each time, talking real life with each other, the good and the bad, and sticking with the same script and prayers and chip systems even when you don’t feel like it, some of it, any of it.

I’d grown so inspired by AA, in fact, that I’ve decided to trade an A for an S in my own personal journey through Sexaholics Anonymous.

“So yeah, that’s about it,” I finish. “Thanks for listening.”

“Thanks, Tom,” the chorus returns.

The meeting continues with a couple more stories and recitations, and I receive my 24-hour sobriety chip with a hug. Hopefully the first of many. We hold hands in a circle and say the Serenity Prayer to close the meeting:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I talk to a couple guys afterward, good guys who want to change, and then I go home.

~ ~ ~

I’m not entirely clear about my new recovery journey through Sexaholics Anonymous: how often I’ll attend, what sponsorship will look like, how much I’ll dive into the reading material and 12 Steps. I attended two meetings last week and encountered a couple of the same guys both times, and this was reassuring.

I love my spontaneous streaks, but I’m a creature of habit at heart. The same meetings on the same days and time with the same brothers in recovery will be beneficial to my life, I think.

My ultimate goal is to plug into a new church soon as I continue feeling out my new city and my new life, ideally complementing Sexaholics Anonymous with a solid church community. True community, especially brotherhood, take time, I know, and I think that’s where Sexaholics Anonymous fits perfectly into my life right now.

In Sexaholics Anonymous, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, whether you’re new to this or old to this, single or married, gay or straight or somewhere in between, your faith background or lack thereof — only that you have a desire to stop lusting.

This desire to stop has been there since my so-called innocent Christian childhood. And while I’ve taken some significant steps in the last two decades, upping the ante on vulnerability a couple years ago with my blog and book, this latest foray into Sexaholics Anonymous feels like a long overdue awakening from my vulnerability slumber.

I’ll keep y’all posted where this good little Christian boy’s addiction and recovery journey continues.

I need you all to keep me accountable.

I need to remind myself daily that I’m addict, a man with a heart deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), and I need to be reminded that I’m not alone.

Do you regularly attend Sexaholics Anonymous or a similar recovery program? Tell us about your journey through addiction, recovery, and accountability. Do you have a regular group of men with whom you stay accountable?

About the Author

  • Tom Mate, you are so not alone in this Buddy !!!!
    Awesome thoughts here.
    Thank you !!!!
    Thank you…

  • Will never stop being proud of you, Tom, and your desire to keep pursuing Christ. Thank you for sharing this piece of your beautiful story. Praying for you always, brother.

  • Thank you, Tom, for taking another step in your vulnerability. I will follow your progress with great interest. AA I think you will find in my city but I’m pretty sure not an SA. I’m not sure I would have the courage to do what you are doing. Well done! Pray that it works for you and so look forward to you sharing your journey with this.

    • I used to think I could never attend a group like SA myself, and now here I am. Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I’m confident you could muster the courage for a similar course as well, Jeremy.

  • Good on you Tom. SA mtgs. I’ve never been. The human connection you’ll like.
    Because I’m introspective and think too much here goes. Here’s me….
    Spent 15+ yrs. in AA/NA. Still miss it. Don’t know why I stopped.
    Actually, I do. I segregated to church only groups.
    But never found the authenticity/vulnerability nor the great fellowship of AA. So I miss that.
    I suspect you’ll sober up at SA: Diminish/stop your online stuff. That’s good :).
    But what about your addiction? Your disease?
    AA recognizes the dire situation of addiction. Yes they do. Like nobody else :(.
    But AA has no cure….!
    Is a cure necessary? Is there really one? Or is it part of the old heart which we will take to the grave?
    But that’s a big problem living only out of the old heart (Jer. 17:9)…..
    AA offers only ‘sobriety’ to cope with the uncured diseased old heart.
    Sobriety is: stop drinking and drugging and go to AA mtgs. indefinitely. Yikes! The drinking and drugging do stop.
    Because the addiction is not cured it transfers to other things. Like sobriety for some. People get addicted to sobriety.
    In AA you trade one addiction for another since there is no cure! It’s only logical.
    I loved the fellowship, the authenticity of AA. But there is little hope for the problem of addiction.
    Because AA doesn’t know about Christ and His offer of redemption where he replaces the old heart with a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) . A new heart with new desires and corresponding attractions. Like other gender attraction for one :).
    Love to hear your deeper thoughts regarding all this :).
    But, I’m NOT knocking AA/NA/SA. No. Like you’ve said you’ll need the church as well. A good one.

    • Good thoughts, Jon. I’m currently looking at SA as a starting point and potentially something I continue for quite some time. All depends on what level of authenticity I find in a church, though. Unfortunately I don’t have the greatest track record in that department, but we’ll see. Thanks for sharing your perspective with similar support groups!

      • If its a good SA group, you’ll love it no doubt. The Lord will reward you for your courageous step :). Look for that. But the enemy won’t like it. Armor up for that one :(.
        Yes, hard to find authenticity in the church… My church has a mentoring network. I mentor a number of men where it only works if I’m authentic. Otherwise, I have nothing to offer…
        But I have a mentor too :). An eighty year old mature Christian man who has seen it all and then some :)!
        But oh, do you think the Lord led you to SA to learn it’s greatest asset: authenticity? So that, a church awaits where you might teach such men’s groups the benefits of that kind of real intimacy?

        • Authenticity in the church. Oh man. What a concept. I hope I can indeed teach a thing or two to other men. I’m already inspired by the guys who share so openly in SA, whether they identify as Christians or not.
          Good to hear you have a mentor as well! Can never be too young for that.

  • It a good thing the God we continually seek after is not the kind who cast broken people out of the way. I am so encourage to read the stories of all these awesome men of God – who in spite the brokenness they face daily – they keep seeking Him. Tom – thanks for sharing and for the encouragement.

  • Tom, thanks for sharing all this. I just started my third 12-step group. It is a skype based group using the SAA book and group therapy techniques – so not “by the book”. I had many issues with my previous two groups (SA – which I joined 6 years ago – and CR about 3 years ago). I seem to have “bad luck” with groups but also am just really really stubborn. I liked opening up and sharing “my stuff”, and appreciated most of the sharing (though the “couldn’t do it without my loving wife” talks always was a huge trigger). I had also issues with my 7 (?) sponsors – too much to go into detail here but I often felt abandoned by them. Even my CR group suddenly dissolved too. so…. I am on my third and likely last group.
    I never really got past the first three steps. Even though I AM AN ADDICT, I seem to balance things well enough to be “successful” in this life. At least on the surface. Underneath? I am a mess and really in despair. Mostly about failed intimacy in relationships (my wife specifically) and my recent realization that perhaps I am “outside” of God’s plan. I’ve been reading a little about Calvinism and pre-destination, and that theology seems to “fit” my life experience. So relying on a “Higher Power” is difficult at best. All of this clearly shows that my battle is indeed spiritual. And how in need I am for the 12 – steps. My wall though is feeling “outside” God’s love (not for anything I have done/or not done – but just because I am). Thus despair and those long held feelings/fear of being abandoned “i.e. being on my own” lead me to “act out” in addiction.
    I think i wrote too much….

    • There’s never such a thing as “too much” comment here, Jim (at least as it pertains to length). Thanks so much for sharing your own 12 Step perspective. I’m still learning the lingo and diving into the material, so it will be interesting to see where I’m at with all of this in a few months. I do want to commit to that at least, though; otherwise, what’s the point? Sorry to hear it’s taken a few tries for you, and I hope your current group helps you grow and that you’re, in turn, able to help others grow. I think that’s the true mark of a successful support group — turning the wounded into wounded healers themselves.

  • Currently binge-reading this blog during breaks at work.
    I’ve been meeting with a counselor, who has encouraged me a couple times this year to look into SA. I’ve told him I didn’t want to because I’ll be moving in August. But I think it’s more because it sounds like something bigger than what I’m going through. I’ve never had sex, so how can I go to SA?? Your story gives me some insight as to why it is likely a good idea for me to consider a SA more seriously. Thanks.

    • So glad to have you here with us, Kevin! We fully support binge-reading our blog during work hours.
      Sounds like you’re in the same boat I was, never having had sex, wondering if SA was “too extreme” a jump to make. I still feel that way at times, now having gone to three weeks worth of meetings. But the reality check I receive each time and the vulnerability I see expressed among the other guys keep me coming back. I’m realizing I’m not that different from other men, not nearly as much as I once thought, and this is a very vital realization I’m making.
      Hope to see you more in the comments in the future!

  • Been looking into SA groups in my area. Haven’t found one that works well with my schedule, but may have found a Celebrate Recovery 12 step group to join. So thankful for all the resources available, and glad to know other “good Christian boys” are attending SA too.

    • I hope you find something that works for you, Aaron. I no longer attend SA or CR, but the times I did were good for me to establish some regular routine of confession and connection. Currently seeking out a new path to achieve those necessities.

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