32 years ago it was explained to me, by my soon to be sponsor, that sexual sobriety was “No masturbation and no sex outside a committed monogamous relationship”.
Also, that any active sexuality was preceded by a minimum of 60 days of complete sexual abstinence from all genital contact with anyone, including a partner or wife.
The second part seemed impossible, but I belonged to an SLAA group that would not allow members to sponsor, lead meetings, hold service positions, read the literature out loud in meetings, or even speak in meetings until that 60 days was accomplished.
I felt incredibly outraged. How dare they?
Secretly though, as I saw the men and women who had done it, I wished to be like them.
I railed against it to members who would listen to me rant. They gently, but firmly, held the boundaries of the group.
Me not getting my way, in that particular instance, was the very best thing I ever did, after stopping drinking alcohol.
I began to try to get sexually sober in August 1988 and it wouldn’t be until June 26, 1990 that I would actually start my first successful 60 days of celibacy.
I failed and I failed and I failed and I failed.
I remember saying to myself at one point “You must be the stupidest guy in the room because everybody else is getting this except you.”
Gandhi had a quote that endeared me to him very much “I feel that the final resolution was the cumulative affect of those unsuccessful strivings”.
A normal person’s thoughts are 80% negative. Being an addict, I was close to 100%.
What I couldn’t see at the time was that every time I got another day sober, even if I failed the next day, was adding to my getting “permanently sober”, as the Doctor’s Opinion states.
At first I could only get six days away from masturbation if I put everything I had into it.
That went on for a while.
Then I started utilizing more and more of the tools.
I had a sponsor, a blessedly gentle, loving, kind, positive sponsor.
Without him, and talking to him daily, sometimes two or three times a day, I simply wouldn’t of made it. I’ll never be able to repay him.
I had learned in AA to go to meetings, meetings, meetings.
But there were only two in our city.
I organized my life around getting to those Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon meetings.
Then I started reading the literature. Not just reading but studying, learning, integrating the words.
I used the SLAA book and Hope and Recovery, which are now our D and E Offices respectively.
They were invaluable. They taught me the methodology of how to get sexually sober.
Now I had three tools: meetings, a sponsor and literature.
My day count began to rise. I could get nine or ten days.
In those days we did written first steps that were read publicly to two other more experienced members in a privately held group that anyone could schedule.
It was like a Fourth Step in AA except it was strictly on sexual behavior.
When I read it to them, I was more scared than I’ve ever been except for when my father would beat me in public...or the first time I ever packed my own parachute.
But, it helped me turn a corner.
My day count began to rise. I could get in the high teens: 15 days, 17 days, 19 days.
There was no discussion of whether or not we could keep a day count to ourselves. That was not an available choice…And I’m glad.
I began to employ another tool: Prayer.
It was tentative at first. I had some real father issues that leaked over into the God of my understanding and I was afraid and I did not trust God.
But the slogan “Act as if”, I was told, would work just fine…And it did.
I made it past the “Withdrawal period” of 19 days and got 23 days.
I relapsed again and began to use a tool I would not have used before…The phone.
I got everybody’s phone number who had more time than me and started calling them every other day, sometimes everyday.
I finally hit 32 days!
I relapsed again. I felt discouraged… But, I would not stop.
Now I had meetings, a sponsor, literature, prayer, and fellowship.
I surrendered again and this time I made it 43 days.
And then I found the “Silver bullet”...Service
I began to reach out to people who had one less day of sexual sobriety than I did and I began to try to help them.
And a wondrous and a curious thing happened: I began to feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life.
I made it to 58 days...Two days short of being sexually sober and I slipped again.
I think God just wanted to make sure that I really wanted it.
On June 26, 1990 I surrendered again, using all the tools that had been laid at my feet.
That was 30 years ago today. I have not masturbated since.
I want to thank all the men who helped me those first two years.
They completely formed my character.
I was dishonest, selfish, resentful and afraid when I came in.
I want to thank all the men who are reading this because you keep me sober every day… Three hours at a time.
But masturbation wasn’t the only problem.
I was addicted to cheating on my wife.
That was a different issue than masturbation.
It was spawned from my complete disassociation from myself.
I was a needy man. I was a lonely man. I was a sad man. I was a hurt man.
Above all else I did not want to be alone.
More accurately, I did not want to be with myself.
I didn’t know it, but I hated myself.
Not being in touch with my feelings, I had absolutely no clue that that was true about me.
On June 26, 1990 I began the very, very slow process, one feeling at a time, of finding myself.
That’s why, 56 times a week, we do feelings check-in at PrayerCall.
“Feelings are the pathway to the soul” ...One feeling at a time.
As I began to discover my feelings it was like a tidal wave inside of me.
It was overwhelming and I wanted to rush into the arms of some woman... like a child.
I began to discover God in a new way… The group
I found if I shared my feelings, with safe people, that my feelings were manageable.
I stayed alone for 7 1/2 months of total celibacy once I got sexually sober on June 26, 1990.
Then I asked God to “Send me one of his daughters”...And he did.
At 37 years old, for the first time in my life, I experienced something I had never experienced: mature, intimate, sober sex.
It was as though I had only been seeing in black-and-white and suddenly I could see in color.
The 7 1/2 months I had spent alone taught me about my feelings.
Feelings and commitment made me grow up sexually.
There was a codicil though: I could not go back to masturbation as that would betray my commitment to my partner.
After year and a half my partner and I decided to stop and I went into my second celibacy.
I was very scared that I would go back to masturbation after being actively sexual for 18 months.
So I joined Sexaholics Anonymous and they kept me sexually sober through that period.
We got back together for another year and then called it quits permanently.
I wasn’t afraid to go into my third celibacy period, because I knew I would be intensely close to God, as I had been in the first two periods.
But God had a surprise for me. He completely left me alone. Not a word... Not a word.
I felt abandoned and cheated, but what God wanted me to do was to finally grow up.
This third period of Chastity lasted 19 months. Once I got the hang of being on my own I was very happy.
I was in my fourth of five custody cases for my daughter at the time, and in that fourth case I lost custody for three years. It was a brutal time, but Chasity got me through it.
I fell in love with a woman who, until I met my wife, was the love of my life.
At the end of four years I did another celibacy period and left.
I was spending most of my time in a Catholic monastery in Atlanta Georgia.
I was asked to be a monk, but I had just gotten custody back of my daughter...And God sent me my second wife.
After five years my daughter and I moved from Atlanta Georgia to San Francisco to start a new life.
Chastity was very handy then because dating in the San Francisco was very sparse.
I did four years of chastity, but it was very difficult.
So nine years ago, I started Monks, whose sole purpose was to help men do a ”Finite period of chastity”.
Four years ago PrayerCall was started.
Three years ago I finally met the woman I had been looking for.
I guess I was ready.
Now I am happily married and have a nine month old son.
I get to pray with you guys six times a day and stay sexually sober… And that’s enough for me.
When I got sexually sober things were bad in my life.
I was getting divorced and in my first of five custody cases.
I have journaled in notebooks since 1973, but the two month notebook before and after I got sexually sober, May through July 1990, was stolen by my wife to use to testify against me in court so I don’t have accurate records.
The more time I racked up chaste, the more clear my memory got, and I could remember more and more of my childhood physical and sexual abuse.
It came in waves. It was a shocking, flood of nightmares.
My family thought I was crazy because I was asking them about the things that I was remembering in my “memory floods“.
They wanted absolutely nothing to do with me…None of them.
I was cheating on my wife with a tall, ugly woman who was very in touch with her feelings.
I was so beleaguered with memory floods that I was inextricably attracted to her as a safe person, but being a sex addict with no recovery, I couldn’t stop having sex with her.
It gets worse: the tall, ugly, safe woman ...was my sponsor’s girlfriend.
I had stopped drinking, taking drugs, smoking, lost 50 pounds, and had stopped caffeine… So there was no relief from those things.
I was not in touch with my anger yet, so I was profoundly depressed all the time.
I was very in debt and had a business with eight employees, working sometimes 14 hours a day...completely workaholic.
Also, crazily, going to S meetings, back in those days, where we had no boundaries and no rules, I had heard people share about a behavior I had never heard of, or done before, “phone sex”.
I started doing that with the tall, ugly, safe woman...And felt incredibly ashamed of myself afterward each time.
I had been lying to myself that being orally sexual with this woman was not really being sexual… kind of like ex-President Clinton.
In my recording studio we had put up large mirrors for the groups to shoot video.
When I was “traditionally sexual“ in front of the mirrors in my studio, my moment of truth finally came, and my denial broke...
I could see what I was doing, literally.
I knew that when I went to court, if the judge asked me “Are you seeing anyone else?” I was going to have to lie, in which case I was in danger of drinking again, or if I told the truth, I would lose custody of my daughter.
That was my bottom...
Patrick Carnes says you “hit bottom” and get sober when you are “about to lose something that you simply can’t live without”.
I could not live without my daughter. I loved her so much.
I have not masturbated or cheated on a woman for 30 years since that day.
God lifted me out of the sludge of disease and my life has been devoted to sharing about that salvation since then.
It has been a worthy life and I am forever, humbly grateful.
It was really love addiction that brought me to my knees and got me to take sobriety seriously.
My experience is that when God sends a message he sends a man, but when he has a big message...he sends a woman.
On March 20, 1987 I returned home from a 5 day Delta Blues research trip in Mississippi, and I could suddenly play lead guitar, rhythm guitar and carry the bass...all at the same time, by myself. Just like Robert Johnson at the Crossroads!
It was great! But weird! I never would ever have to depend on singers again...and that was a blessing.
But the Devil was about to take my soul as his due...or try to.
The very next day, a buxom, petite lass, and the also the girl who was the first love of my life when I was the tender age of 15 years old, called me, after not hearing from her for 11 years.
I was married to someone else and had a five month old daughter. She was married to someone else and had a young son.
For four months we started obsessively calling and talking to each other...intriguing romantically.
This was before cell phones when long distance calls were expensive...and traceable.
I was completely crazy with “love addiction”. I had never even heard that expression before!
Finally, she had enough of my craziness and said “I don’t love you, I don’t care about you, I don’t want to talk or see you, again.”
So, on Friday July 24, 1987, being a drama queen, and having a really crummy program, I drank alcohol again, after 5 years, 7 months and 2 days of sobriety. AA frowns on that kinda behavior...
It was not pretty.
Being drunk wasn’t that fun, full, warm, carefree, playful, fast and easy experience it had been anymore, though.
It felt more like having a fever: sweaty, clammy, headachy.
I would go on to drink a beer or two, every week or so, for 8 more months.
That was hell...not having sobriety and having to hide it from everyone, and yet not having fun either, just a dark fever.
There was a 19 year old boy, with 8 inch spiked orange hair, that I was teaching to play bass (The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag) who was having trouble with drugs.
I couldn’t help him, because I was using alcohol and couldn’t be honest with him.
That shame brought me back to AA on April 4, 1988, 32 years ago when I stopped drinking.
Four months later I would join SLAA and start my long road to sexual recovery.
I want to thank Carol M. She carried the message that brought me to my knees and broke me...and I finally reached out for God.
Thank you, really.
In 1988 AA was under siege.
Every few days someone from our 11:00 am AA meeting would drop out of site for 30 days and then return from “Treatment”.
Suddenly you would hear people saying they were codependents, love addicts, survivors of childhood sexual abuse or overeaters.
AA defended herself by creating the “Singleness of purpose” doctrine.
They remembered what had happened when the Washingtonians “became fragmented in their primary purpose”, in the 1850’s, and these people wanted to keep AA alive, so it was voted on, group by group, and decided to make an announcement before each meeting: “Please restrict your comments to problems with alcohol”.
It felt familiar to me. During the Vietnam War you were either with Nixon...or you were with Hendrix.
It was a silly extremity, but everyone took it very seriously.
In that atmosphere I began, very quietly, to ask men in AA, who had more time than me, about their sex lives.
First was Shaky Sam. A big, country boy in his mid-fifties (which I thought was very old back then).
Shaky had 23 years not drinking which was the longest time anyone had in our local AA clubhouse.
He was a gentle bear of a man, a mighty and unabashed Methodist and when he spoke in meetings he referred to Higher Power as “The Lord”...He was the only one who could get away with that kind of public familiarity with God.
I told Shaky I couldn’t stop masturbating and he flushed and kind of “Pshawed” me, like “Boy, why you talking about things like that?”
But, when I told him that I couldn’t stop having sex with another woman, not my wife, I received something I did not understand.
He got very serious, looked me deeply in the eyes and said “ You ask God to forgive you and you go on ahead”.
He had forgiven me BEFORE I had done it.
It was a unique experience in my life.
It was the first time I had received mercy.
When he died a year later from cancer I cried so hard that a woman had to lead me out of the church because I was going to pass out, from not enough oxygen-crying so hard, just like I had seen little old ladies do in the African American funerals I had seen as a child.
To this day, 32 years later, when I hear “In the Sweet Bye and Bye” I weep thinking of Shaky.
Shaky was not at our 11:00 am everyday, but Bob C. was.
Bob had 16 years and was the biggest fish in our AA daily pond. It’s undisputed leader.
Bob was late fifties, had glasses so thick they seemed like telescopes from the side and when you looked him in the eye he was so magnified it was like you could see right into his skull.
He was very dignified and yet he dressed like an 8 year old boy in a light yellow canvas jacket and deck jeans and deck tennies.
But the two things that were striking about Bob were his photographic memory of the AA 12x12 ...and he had an incredibly hot wife.
Bob had what we all wanted: long term AA sobriety and hot sex.
So, privately, I asked Bob about his sex life and he was direct, “I masturbate and I make love to my wife”.
Bob was mean as a snake and Shaky was as loving as a lion, but neither one felt very helpful on the masturbation issue.
Then there was Tom B. the man who taught me about feelings...a life changer.
Tom was traveling paint salesman and he kept the job, he told me once laughingly, so he could masturbate five times a day while driving. I guess I was mad about his uselessness, because I stole his girlfriend, who turned out to be my last acting out partner...Ugh, that’s an ugly thought.
A couple of times, I very foolishly spoke openly in an AA meeting about this stuff.
Fred C. said “We don’t talk about our pee-pee’s here” and Stan P. said “That’s chickenshit”.
It’s funny how things turn out because I ended up playing Amazing Grace at Stan P.’s funeral.
Finally, I talked to my quite enlightened Episcopal priest and he was very matter of fact...”I masturbate.”
I was “0 in 6”.
But finally, God sent me Eddie H.
Eddie, too, had a hot partner, which I noticed right away.
They both started out cheating on their spouses, with each other, and going to orgies.
And now he was faithful to his partner...and he had stopped masturbating and had even done 60 days of celibacy!
I had found someone who had what I wanted...and it began.
This was an incredibly confusing time.
When I started really thinking about stopping masturbation I was going to an ACA therapist.
He was a very large, red-headed, evangelical Christian, country boy with an MA in counseling.
He suggested that I only masturbate while thinking of my wife.
I tried that and I found that my mind would start to wander off to other women.
Then he suggested that, perhaps, I should stand, look in the mirror, and repeat, out loud “I love you, I love you, I love you”, while masturbating.
I tried it and, at first, I could not stop laughing.
I persisted, but found that I could not be orgasmic, unless I had at least a nanosecond of fantasy about someone else.
Finally, he suggested that, since I was masturbating with the woman I was having an affair with, that perhaps I could invite my wife to participate in my masturbation...as a spectator.
My wife, very reluctantly, agreed.
We tried and when I was orgasmic I saw something I had only even heard about in Beevis and Butthead cartoons...my wife actually “hurled” projectile vomit across the room.
I decided that this therapist was either an idiot or just a sex addict in denial...and I stopped listening to him.
I tried masturbating without porn and that was absolutely no problem, but I still couldn’t stop masturbating.
It began to dawn on me that this was exactly like alcohol, “When I could control it, I didn’t enjoy it and when I enjoyed it, I couldn’t control it”.
Other people, most people as a matter of fact, could masturbate, but, I simple wasn’t one of them.
I decided to do whatever I had to do to stop, ...but I would only listen to people who knew how to stop, had stopped for a long time and that I would do anything they said.
That was the second best thing I ever did, after deciding to stop drinking.
I have never once regretted either of those two decisions.