A profile of 12 step programs for sex addiction

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groupIf someone is an alcoholic, and wants to participate in a 12 Step Recovery program, it’s simple … go to AA. If someone wants to find a 12 Step Recovery program for sexual addiction, it’s more complicated. There are a variety of 12 step programs addressing sexual addiction. The most commonly recommended programs are Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), both discussed below. But there are others as well. What follows in an excerpt from an article on the “Christians in Recovery” site:

THE NATIONWIDE FELLOWSHIPS

People often ask why there are so many fellowships and how we differ. The nationwide fellowships originated between 1976 and 1979 in widely separated parts of the country. Each had already begun taking shape before learning of the others. As a result, we developed differently, and most formed separate networks. The differences have much to do with the personalities and needs of the founding members, especially the experience, strength and hope penned by our founders in their pamphlets and texts, often called in the AA tradition our “big books.”

We have in common a problem with sexual addiction and compulsivity. We also have a common belief in the 12-step, 12-tradition program originated in 1935 by ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA). We urge you to attend the meetings of your choice. And, if you are unable to find those of a particular ilk, consider attending another sort of meeting, as long as it is consistent with your program of recovery.

The following are descriptions of groups represented on ARAS plus others identified in the publication from which these descriptions were taken.

SEX AND LOVE ADDICTS ANONYMOUS

SLAA was founded in Boston in 1976 by a musician and his wife and several other women and men with AA backgrounds. SLAA has always had a broad paradigm embracing both male and female compulsivity, and incorporating relationship and codependency issues. This has resulted in the largest representation of women among all addict groups. A 1989 SLAA survey reported 42% women which compares to 15% or less in the other addict fellowships.

From the start SLAA founders got comfortable enough about their recoveries to make public their meeting information much like AA, times and locations usually published in area meeting lists, via phone messages and often cited in the weekly events section of the local newspaper.

Unlike the other fellowships, SLAA has permitted their big book, “Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous,” to distributed by HAZELDEN, a major retail book outlet. The revenues from literature sales has pushed their annual fellowship income to twice that of the others. In 1989 a monthly periodical, *The Journal*, came into being patterned after AA’s *Grapevine*. Stories submitted by members are shared and members in remote places can experience “a meeting through the mail” for a $15.00 annual subscription fee.

Their concept of recovery expects each woman and man to make a personal list of “bottom-line” behaviors which are causing havoc in their lives. Being sexually sober means not “acting out” those sexually intriguing or abusing rituals. By the thirteenth year (1989) an SLAA survey revealed a membership with an average of 18 months in the Program and an average of 13 months sobriety; 43% had completed Steps 4-5, plus 22% completing Steps 6-9. Sexual orientation of members was: 63% heterosexual, 11% bisexual and 26% gay/lesbian.

SEX ADDICTS ANONYMOUS

SAA originated in Minneapolis, MN in 1977 when a group of ten men (psychotherapists, clergy and one judge) began a very clandestine weekly meeting. They had an acute need for confidentiality and cautiously put the word out among other professionals only. To this day, most of their 560 meetings are careful not to publicize meeting locations, offering access only by a post office box or a published phone number and then meet inquirers at a local restaurant before escorting them to the first meeting.

Meetings that were either male-only or female-only characterized their start, but today the majority meetings are mixed, with women numbering 15% or less of the membership. This fellowship has become a very safe and supportive place for recovering sex offenders, although those individuals comprise a small minority. With a broad diversity of heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual behaviors being addressed, the fellowship developed from its start a concept of each member defining her or his own “boundaries,” separating sober, healthful sexuality from the old sexually compulsive rituals. Individuals are urged to respect the sobriety definitions of others no matter how much they may differ from one’s own.

Their monthly publication, *The Plain Brown Rapper*, contains recovery stories, opinions on various issues as well as announcements. SAA also has a new periodical by and for women called *SISS (Sisters In Sexual Sobriety)*.

SEXAHOLICS ANONYMOUS

SA grew out of the search of a Silicon Valley technical writer in California who found sexual sobriety through the support of recovering alcoholics. From the start in 1978 he used his writing talents to record their experiences. Carefully patterning everything after Alcoholics Anonymous they coined the name “sexaholics”, specifically defined sexual sobriety for them selves, and like the founders of AA, began passionately sharing this journey with others.

Their anonymous self publishing led to attention by the media of that little Los Angeles fellowship. A 1980 mention of SA’s address in a *Dear Abby* column resulted in a deluge of 3,000 inquiries. Responding took almost a year and from that grew little pockets of SA meetings across the USA and Canada.

In June 1984, SA began a practice of semi-annual gatherings held each time in different cities. A big book and other literature, including a quarterly newsletter, *Essay*, met the need for a “written word” to support struggling little groups separated by hundreds of miles. Gradually, regional conferences also came into being across the USA, Canada and Germany as personal recoveries deepened and networking broadened.

SA’s goal has long been “progressive victory over lust” which is a focus on elimination of sexually destructive thinking. They state that “any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive”. This fellowship-defined sobriety definition keeps goals simple for newcomers and they have found that “it works”. Today within their 6,000 membership are perhaps a thousand with two or more years of continuous SA-defined sobriety as well as a group of old timers with more than ten.

SEXUAL COMPULSIVES ANONYMOUS

SCA began in New York City in 1982 out of the discontent of several gay men with the other programs shaped primarily by non-gays. From their “S” group backgrounds plus AA, OA, and AL ANON, they formulated a concept called the personal “sexual recovery plan”. Adopting and adapting the writings of AA, SLAA and outside books like _Out_of_The_Shadows_ (Patrick Carnes, CompCare 1983), they spread gradually in the gay communities of New York City and Los Angeles. Their 29 page booklet and three other titles contain a rich expression of the recovery process in the language of the gay sub-culture. Their quarterly newsletter, *The SCAnner*, reports 110 weekly meetings. While made up predominantly of gay men, SCA has a growing number of other men and women.

RECOVERING COUPLES ANONYMOUS

RCA was started in 1988 in Minneapolis MN by three couples with recoveries in SAA, COSA, BAA (BULIMICS & ANOREXICS ANONYMOUS), CODA (CODEPENDENTS ANONYMOUS) and AL-ANON. Their concept has been to work through the 12 Steps and attend meetings as a couple. All of the issues inherent in one’s other 12-step programs are relevant and welcome so the twosome can develop greater openness, honesty and trust. Straight, gay and lesbian couples are included in most meetings and most of the 96 meetings include individuals from AA, AL-ANON or any other 12-step programs.

Some groups have adopted a boundary that their group will specifically address sex and love addiction. They feel that this provides an environment where members won’t feel uncomfortable talking about sexual experiences which are laden with deep shame and fears of rejection. RCA has a 150 page “big book”, ten other literature titles, 29 audio tapes from the former three conferences, and a newsletter called *Hand In Hand*.

The diversity of approaches to sexual dependency problems is creating a rich resource of help for a people imprisoned in shame and denial around their sexually compulsive behaviors. Today the word “recovering” characterizes these lives, and they are helping one another while they reach out empathetically to “those who still suffer”. At the national level in 1995, SCA took a step further in recognizing our common purpose by publishing 800-977-HEAL, a national hotline that provides information about meetings listed with the various national organizations, i.e. SAA, SLAA, etc.

Reference

[The above information taken with permission from SEX ADDICTION PROBLEMS ORGANIZATIONS, HOW THEY STARTED & WHY THEY DIFFER, A “TAKE WHAT YOU CAN USE” PUBLICATION, flyer published by the Colorado Service Group, P.O. Box 284, Englewood, CO 80151, (303) 427-0176.

For those wanting more detail about the national fellowships, a 12 page booklet entitled Twelve Step Resources for Sexual Addicts & Co-Addicts (1989) can be ordered for $2.00 from the National Council on Sexual Addiction. The booklet contains seven parallel columns listing information about the fellowships such as: meeting practices, beliefs, adaptations of AA’s 12 Steps, and fellowship literature.]

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34 thoughts on “A profile of 12 step programs for sex addiction”

  1. I live in Orono and I’m looking for love addiction groups – this site seems to be only
    for sex addiction for men. Please advise?

  2. Nancy,

    Thanks for the question. You’re right in that most of the work I’ve done has been with male addicts, and a lot of the material in this site is oriented towards men. But I’m very aware that this is not just an issue for men, and am working to add more material for female addicts as well. With respect to this particular article (and the various 12 step groups available) I know that many SAA and SA groups are open for both men and women. Of course, in mixed meetings you need to be careful about maintaining boundaries. But it can be helpful to have meetings with both men and women in them where you can learn to talk and listen with compassion and empathy to members of the opposite sex without sexualizing them. If I were you I would search SLAA first, then SAA and SA, and see what kinds of groups you find. Blessings!

  3. Do you make a distinction between love & sex addiction? I see sex a merely one
    manifestation of love addiction (granted the most powerful one) but find it troublesome
    to separate out or mostly focus on the sex itself.

    The various symptoms of sex addiction (compulsivity, internet porn, etc) don’t fit
    my experience and furthermore seem like the branches of a tree rather than the
    trunk or root itself.

  4. Can you tell me if there are any “online” sponsors (I’ve looked on the internet but had no luck) or do I have to go to a meeting for the SA or SAA Group?

  5. I recommend SLAA for a higher percentage of female members. You can participate in online meetings, yahoo group email lists and telephone meetings with SLAA which will give you access to female addicts around the world who you hopefully will be able to identify with. I find the email list a life saver.

    http://www.slaafws.org/ for more information (look under meetings)

    I’ve been sober in SLAA for almost 4 years and it’s totally changed my life.

    Walking with you!

    Dawn

  6. Thanks for the info Dawn. I have attended a number of SA and SAA meetings, but don’t have any experience with SLAA. So what you write is very helpful. I also want to say congratulations on four years of sobriety. That’s a great accomplishment!

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  19. Thanks for the comments Ami, Early, Lavonna, Steve, Lady Ulich, and eva! A couple comments/replies:

    Lavonna … It’s interesting to me to see how this develops. I get quite a bit of traffic I think (16,000 visitors in December of 2010), but not as many comments as I would like. Hopefully that will change. Yes there are some trackbacks too. Love that 🙂

    Eva … I wish I could give you more sites. I have a couple suggestions, but it doesn’t appear that any of these have been updated lately. You never know — here they are:

    http://loveinthetimeofaddiction.blogspot.com/
    http://womananonymous7.blogspot.com/
    http://iloveasexaddict.wordpress.com/

    One thing I would also suggest if you want to get more resources … my wife and I have started an online support community for sexual strugglers and their spouses. Check it out at:
    http://recoveryjourney.com

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