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“Before coming to Sex Addicts Anonymous, many of us never knew that our problem had a name. All we knew was that we couldn’t control our sexual behavior. For us, sex was a consuming way of life. Although the details of our stories were different, our problem was the same. We were addicted to sexual behaviors that we returned to over and over, despite the consequences.”

  - Sex Addicts Anonymous, p. 3  

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Sex addiction

can involve a wide variety of practices. Sometimes an addict has trouble with just one unwanted behavior, sometimes with many. A large number of sex addicts say their unhealthy use of sex has been a progressive process. It may have started with an addiction to masturbation, pornography (either printed or electronic), or a relationship, but over the years progressed to increasingly dangerous behaviors.

The essence of all addiction

is the addict's experience of powerlessness over a compulsive behavior, resulting in their lives becoming unmanageable. The addict is out of control and experiences tremendous shame, pain and self-loathing. The addict may wish to stop --- yet repeatedly fails to do so. The unmanageability of addicts' lives can be seen in the consequences they suffer: losing relationships, difficulties with work, arrests, financial troubles, a loss of interest in things not sexual, low self-esteem and despair.

Sexual preoccupation

takes up tremendous amounts of energy. As this increases for the sex addict, a pattern of behavior (or rituals) follows, which usually leads to acting out (for some it is flirting, searching the internet for pornography, or driving to the park.) When the acting out happens, there is a denial of feelings usually followed by despair and shame or a feeling of hopelessness and confusion.


 - Sex Addicts Anonymous - Getting Started in SAA, 2000 



If you are not sure if you are a sex addict you can take a look at the Am I a Sex Addict Questionnaire.



Our lives before coming to SAA

We were sexually compulsive people. Despite our most heroic efforts and solemn promises, we were unable to turn away from behaviors and obsessions that were ruining our lives. We interpreted our lack of control as proof that we were bad or defective people, so we sought comfort by justifying our behaviors and sometimes reveling in them, or by denying our sexuality, and hiding in our shame. Our compulsions were at once our worst enemies and our most familiar sources of comfort.

Why we came to SAA

We could no longer deny the pain that our compulsive sexual behaviors had caused in our lives. Many of us experienced such dramatic consequences as divorce, disease, jail, or financial ruin before seeing that our lives had become unmanageable. Others among us were confronted about our behavior by family, friends, or counselors, and were given a choice to seek help, or face yet more loss in our lives. When we learned of SAA, we began to hope again that our lives could be freed from our sexual compulsivity.

Our recovery in SAA

We began to attend SAA meetings. We heard stories similar to ours, and we heard how others in SAA were abstaining from their compulsive behaviors. We learned of the twelve steps of recovery, and when we began to apply them in our lives, we discovered that we, too, could abstain from our compulsive behaviors, with the help of our fellow addicts. We acquired the faith and courage to make appropriate changes in our lives, and to accept our daily problems as stepping stones for spiritual growth. As we continue in our recovery from sexual addiction, one day at a time, we are developing healthier sexuality, a stronger sense of personal integrity, and an ability to truly enjoy our lives.




The Twelve Steps of SAA lead to a spiritual awakening. Our attitudes toward our sexuality and our ways of experiencing sex do change. In recovery, we find ways to make our sexuality an appropriate part of life, not something we do outside of our “normal” lives.


The promise of recovery is a restoration of self. Sexuality is part of who we are, a part that became lost and distorted through our addiction. When we reclaim the possibility of healthier sexuality; we regain a vital aspect of our being.


We acknowledge what we have lost, grieve the harm we suffered, and eventually come to acceptance about our past, which opens the way for being present today, sexually and spiritually.


When we are safe and emotionally present, we can be flexible. We have sexual boundaries, and respect the boundaries of others.


We experience being sexual as a way to satisfy appropriate sexual needs and desires, rather than as a way to manage anxiety, self-medicate, or escape.


As a fundamental part of being human, our sexuality brings great pleasure and deep satisfaction to our lives.


Many of us recognize healthier sexuality when we experience something very different from what we knew in our addiction. We are emotionally present, intimate, flexible, nurturing, and appropriate during sexual activity.


We may discover that healthier sexuality begins long before any actual sexual acts, with a change in our emotional presence and connection with others.


When we allow ourselves to be intimate with our own emotions, we become aware of how we are really feeling, without judging or censoring ourselves for it. We gradually learn to be honest about our feelings with others, while being open to their feelings as well.


In the process, we learn to express our affection rather than power and control. We let go of control and begin to have trust – trust in ourselves, trust in another person, and faith in a Higher Power.


As we grow in recovery, we can use our sexuality to express our love, appreciation and faith. When we are sexual with love, gratitude, and generosity, sex can be an expression of our highest spiritual ideals.


 - Sex Addicts Anonymous, Second Edition, Pages 69 – 73) 

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