How to stop sex and porn addiction?
This is the problem that brought us to desperation - we wanted to stop our sexual compulsivity, but we could not. We tried to stop, but it never lasted. Sexaholics Anonymous presented us with a solution that we never knew about; a proven, reliable means of staying sexually sober one day at a time.
Welcome to the Europe and Middle East Region of Sexaholics Anonymous! We are glad you are here.
Below are a selection of stories from members, all now sober, recovering from sex or porn addiction. They will describe what it was like for them under the "lash" of sexaholism. What brought them to Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). And what happened since. We hope their stories will be an inspiration to you and to all.
Please remember that these stories are the individual experiences of SA members, they are not official SA literature. Their stories are here to offer hope to the still suffering sex and/or porn addict.
When I discuss Step One with a newcomer, I always include the physical powerlessness that we share when it comes to sex addiction, as well as the mental powerlessness. As it states in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous we also have a physical disease. “The body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind,” it states The Doctor’s Opinion- xxvii “We are sure that our bodies were sickened as well. In our belief, any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete.” This doctor then explains that an alcoholic has developed an allergy for alcohol in his body. As soon as he takes a drink, this allergy is triggered off. It will manifest itself as a craving for more and more alcohol. Quite destructive, one might say – as with most allergies.
If we translate this situation to lust, sex and pornography addiction, the situation is quite the same, or maybe even more obvious. When a person starts lusting or acting out sexually, there is a lot of chemistry involved. The body releases all kinds of endorphins, androgens, dopamine’s, etc. The exact composition of the chemistry may vary, depending on whether I am stealing a look on the street, flirting with a coworker, consuming porn with my eyes or recalling sexual memories in my mind. But in any case, my body has developed an abnormal reaction to the chemistries released when I start using sex and porn as a drug.
For me, it had become so bad, that the moment I took the decision to act out, my body would start trembling and shivering, my back muscles would get stressed, and I would feel cold sweats. As soon as my acting out had started, I told myself: “How could I have ever have lived without this?” The phenomenon of craving had started, and I wanted more and more, until I got sick to the point of nausea, vomiting or auto-mutilation. I understand today that I have a rather abnormal physical reaction to sex addiction and pornography, I would say.
Today in order to recover I just have to admit and accept my allergy to lust as a matter of fact. If I have an allergy for example to strawberries, I can try to eat strawberries over and again, every time trying not to get an allergic reaction with all my willpower – and always ‘failing’. It makes no sense, because willpower is useless against an allergy! So every time there is a temptation for me to start lusting or acting out sexually, I try to remember immediately my powerlessness over lust, pornography and sexual acting out – both over the obsession of the mind and over the allergy of the body. It helps me to remember that I am powerless over it. When I can then let the temptation go, without having to take a drink from it, my sanity is momentarily restored. And I am still free.
When the Internet arrived in our home, it became my main activity. I got into videos. I developed more rituals to enhance my acting out. I stayed up all hours of the night getting my fix from male same-sex sites, personal sites, chat rooms, and video sex. It was never enough. In 1997, I had an affair with a guy living in our home. I admitted this to my wife. My behavior was destroying our marriage. She was in the major career position of her life, and I was creating hell for her. One night I was online setting up a date with a man, thinking my wife was asleep. I was lost in the haze of acting out and didn’t realize she was looking over my shoulder. We argued, and that argument led me to see that I had a problem.
I made the call and got to my first meeting. I got a sponsor, went to meetings, and began working the Steps. I found a good job and got involved in Sexaholics Anonymous service. But I had only embraced physical sobriety, not lust sobriety. My character defects were still at work. Things were better, but I was not happy, joyous, or free. One month shy of my fifth sober anniversary, I lost my sobriety.
After a period of time, I got back into the program and once again achieved one year and five months of sobriety. My wife said I had finally become the man she always hoped I would become. I could almost hear the rubber stamp that screamed, “Fixed”. I decided that the rules of Sexaholics Anonymous no longer applied. I lost interest in meetings, went back on the Internet, and began masturbating again. I went on Internet dating sites, male clothing sites, and more. I crossed the boundary of not viewing this at work. I went right back to where I had left off years before, but worse. I was hopeless but still going to meetings.
The filters on my work computer had to be removed because they interfered with my job. Once they were gone, I was looking again. I acted out again and had to admit it to my wife. I began to get some relief from lust. I increased my meeting attendance and started praying. When we were getting ready to move, I masturbated and chose not to tell my wife. I lied to my groups. I acted out once more—and suddenly I clearly saw the extent of my sickness. I’d been engineering resentment toward my wife, which gave me a reason to act out.
For once, facing my sickness head-on brought me to despair. It was the beginning of freedom for me. The past three years of my recovery have been significantly better because I’ve learned to forgive myself and allow myself to be an integrated person, a whole and loving child of God. I have come to accept all of me, especially the part I had tried so hard to suppress—my same-sex attraction. The support and friendship of a wonderful man with a similar attraction in our fellowship has helped me to see my life as choices. I know now that love is commitment. Commitment has become a beautiful word in my life. Today I love being used by God to do His will.
Our family had recently moved to a new city. My wife was pregnant with our second child. I had engaged in compulsive sexual behaviors for twenty-eight years. Slowly but surely lust had increased its stranglehold on my life. Once again I hoped that a change of location and career might stop my acting out, only to find it was increasing in frequency and severity. There was so little time in the day to act out that I began to get up in the middle of the night to go through my rituals––while the family slept. A new boundary crossed.
I was spending increasing amounts of time during the day fantasizing about what I was going to do that night. My lustful thoughts were turning increasingly dark and destructive. I had the definite feeling I would not live to see my wife give birth. My life looked great to most people. No one would have guessed how unmanageable it really was. I was working very hard to keep that fact hidden from everyone, especially myself. In fact, I was leading a dual life that was putting everything I cherished in danger.
My obsession with lust had led to my crossing one boundary after another. For example, I’d promised myself I would never act out at work. Yet that’s precisely what I did, and had been doing for months, since being promoted. My boss had even walked into a room adjacent to the one where I was acting out and called my name. A few more steps and I would have lost my job and faced legal consequences and public exposure. I would have been separated from the family I loved.
Reading Sexaholics Anonymous helped me see that I was a sexaholic and could not stay sober by myself. SA helped me understand that lust was the driving force behind all of my acting out, and progressive victory over lust was the only way to freedom. I had been trying to stop my compulsive behaviors, but they were only symptoms of my real problem—lust! Finally, SA taught me that I could not live in the snake pit of resentment.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions made it clear to me that I must begin my recovery by accepting my “devastating weakness and all its consequences.” It helped me see that if I took hold of the program of Sexaholics Anonymous as a drowning person seizes a “life preserver,” I could get well.
I never fell into a rabbit hole, but I fell hard into the Internet. There, I found a strange world where forbidden things were freely available—even celebrated. At first, I enjoyed this secret place where there was no right or wrong. What I did there, stayed there. So I stayed there longer and longer each day. Soon, my daytime life lacked the intrigue of my secret underworld. Before long, my seemingly harmless online meetings turned into face-to-face infidelities. I cheated frequently, after more than 15 years of faithful marriage.
My wife initially tolerated my online misbehavior, expecting me to outgrow my Internet “phase.” Five years later, I hadn’t outgrown the phase, but she had outgrown marriage to an addict. I soon found myself raising our two kids largely by myself. My new “wife” was the Internet. I crossed all sorts of lines in my online life. Things that at first revolted me eventually had to be tried. Still, I was fiercely proud of one thing: my online life never affected my kids. Or so I thought.
Although my online insanity was not directed at my kids, they surely felt its effects. I remember one Saturday morning when I quickly logged onto the Internet “just to see who is on.” When my kids woke up, they begged me to cook breakfast.
“Just butter yourselves some toast,” I yelled, stalling to prolong an online chat. “We’re still hungry!” they yelled shortly.
“Cook yourself some eggs!” I shouted back, irritated. “But it’s lunchtime, now!” I glanced up and realized four hours had elapsed. “Heat up some pizza; I’ll be right there,” I pleaded, “I’m really busy right now!” Soon they whined, “You said you’d take us to the pool, but now the pool’s closed.” I snapped angrily, “The pool doesn’t close until 6:00!” A glance at the clock told me what I didn’t want to admit. I had lost another entire day to my addiction, and had deprived my kids of another day of normal life. “I’ll make it up to you, kids,” I would swear, “You’ll see. I’ll get caught up with my work soon and things will change.”
I prayed they would believe my non-stop claims of “important work” on the computer. But their bare closets and empty pockets told them my work wasn’t earning any cash. “I’ll make it up to you,” became a familiar and hollow vow.
Until I got into recovery, I couldn’t see the insanity. My online life was no life at all. If I met a new person online, I quickly grew bored and moved on to the next unreal friend. My “real” life became my nights at the computer. My days became pale ghosts of my past. My home, marriage, and business, all slipped away right before my eyes. I would gripe to my online friends about how crazy the offline world was. Anyone who didn’t agree with me was replaced with another friend.
One day, my daughter caught sight of some online chat I had forgotten to erase. It was brief but terrible. I doubt she wanted to believe that those words came from the father she trusted—but they had. She left my life due to her vigilant mother. My sickness destroyed my daughter’s belief that she had a good father. Some people don’t hit bottom until after jail, an asylum, or a divorce court. For me, it came when my secret underworld collided with the fragile reality of someone I loved with all my heart. Like many people in recovery, I have since become grateful for the disaster that brought me here. The worst day of my life turned out to be a life saver.
Ironically, I now work on the Internet nearly every day in my profession. Thanks to my Higher Power, the Internet is not the automatic trigger it used to be. After I found sobriety, one day at a time, I realized that the web was never my real problem. My problem was a physical craving and a mental insanity within myself. The Internet was only a trigger. My real enemy was my addiction. I worked the Steps, came to meetings, and took directions from my sponsor. When I finally worked the program—and worked it every day—the program worked.
Just today, I talked on the phone to my daughter for an hour and she told me all about her move to a bigger city. She attended my recent wedding and I came to her graduation. I don’t know if she’ll ask me to escort her down the aisle at her wedding someday, but I think she might. After some Ninth Step amends, that low point we both went through has been replaced by one High Powered day after another.
I don’t remember when I discovered Internet pornography, but I know now that I was in trouble from the moment I first saw a hardcore image on my screen. I’d been looking at photographs of women since my early teen years—magazines and well-thumbed novels we passed around at school. The excitement came in the fantasies in my head and the descriptions on the page. Of course I masturbated to them all—and I figured my buddies did too. I didn’t talk about it because there was something shameful about it.
I never outgrew that boyhood habit. I spent my twenties acting out the fantasies with women my own age who seemed willing to go along. If they weren’t willing, I’d just move on to someone else. I continued to use books and magazines for extra excitement, and to tide me over between “relationships.”
Eventually I got tired of that lifestyle and got married. My wife didn’t match the images I saw or imagined, so I continued to masturbate to those images. I began finding excuses for not having sex. I preferred fantasy women to the real one I had married, and the marriage ended.
Compulsive use of alcohol and drugs eventually took a toll on my life. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and stopped drinking and taking drugs. I met the woman who became my second wife, and we settled into a happy marriage. I even stopped masturbating for a while and began to enjoy an active and fulfilling sex life.
Then we got the computer, and I discovered a compulsion much deeper than my other addictions. We’d been married a few years when I started to explore the Internet and found Internet porn. I started spending more and more time alone with the computer, searching out ever more explicit images.
At first I didn’t pay for it. There was more than I could use for free even staying up late. In time I found porn sites that offered the fantasies I’d read about as a boy and I subscribed. It wasn’t much money, and I didn’t see the harm. I could give my imagination a rest and let the computer do the work.
My wife did see the harm in it though. She was devastated by my disrespect for her, and for all women. I’d never thought of the women (and men) in the videos and pictures as real people. They were just actors or models who were paid for what they did. But my wife was so upset that we separated. We went into marriage counseling and, at the suggestion of a friend, I went to SA, and began my recovery.
Recovery from my Internet pornography addiction has been a slow but steady process. I can still get an urge to escape into pornography when things don’t go my way, when I get frustrated at work or home, or when I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. I’ve come to realize that the pornographic sessions on the computer start long before I turn on the computer and that I need steady, sometimes daily, fellowship with recovering addicts as well as work on my character defects, making amends, and reaching out to others to stay sober.
I use my computer for work, and I’ve started switching it off, no matter how busy I am, if I find myself idly clicking toward lust images. Like a lustlook on the street, I know in my heart if I am being driven by a desire for the lustful thrill that I think will make me feel better. I have found I can shut down and start over.
It is by working the program of SA that I stay sober and am helped to find a God who works in my life. SA helps me know when lust is driving my attitudes, thoughts and actions, and when it is, I can turn to my Higher Power with a simple prayer or make a phone call to another addict who understands my problem. I have learned that “the first drink” of Internet pornography gets me drunk. In SA I’ve discovered that in times of temptation my God is always there ready to help me to make a real connection.