Chris' story
I was referred to the SAA fellowship in November 2008 on the advice of a therapist. I had been worried about my compulsive sexual behaviours for some time. I was paying for sex at least once a month and constantly obsessed with escorts. It had first started as a thrill and a reward for hard work when I was away on business, but since I had dabbled back in the UK, the problem had become more pernicious and deep seated. It had now become my default to think about fleeing to prostitutes whenever things got tough in my life.

At the same time I was taking work home, becoming stressed with workaholism, then on Fridays stupefying myself with online porn. I would use pornography for hours at a sitting. This would then often lead me onto searching escort websites. Time would fly as I sat hunched over my keyboard in a vain quest to find the perfect specimen. My requirements were exacting, yet I would never be satisfied.

I would get up late the next morning feeling bleary eyed, caked in shame from the previous night’s acting out. I would get to work with dozens of porn sites still on my search engine history and it was a work laptop. On a couple of occasions, sites popped up on my computer; I was too reckless to really care. My performance at work suffered, I was unfocused, irritable and mired in a bubble of shame and lust. At the same time my friendship circle in which many were settling down was disintegrating; I felt isolated. I started to resent couples and all those in healthy, intimate relationships. I felt ashamed of myself around family with whom I could never share my secrets. My prospects for the future seemed dismal; I lurched from crisis to crisis, mistreating women and feeling doomed to be single and lonely.

My rock bottom came on my birthday in September. I was out with some friends for my birthday, getting drunk and having a miserable time. At the end of the night I ended up getting into a cab with a female friend with whom I had been on a few dates. Fearful of the demands of a night of engagement with a flesh and blood human being, I jumped out of the cab, reunited with my friends and we went to a brothel. I woke up the next morning consumed with self loathing and vowed to myself that I would change the way I lived. I now see that this episode symbolized my twin issues of sexual anorexia - fear of intimacy - and acting out anonymously.

Since I got into recovery, my life is much improved. In some ways it is harder as I’m more aware of the emotional strains involved in making the right decisions, but this is a positive evolution for me. Ultimately, I have learned to grow up as a man. I have chosen relationships and an attempt at intimacy over isolation and the world of empty fantasy and the sweet poison of pornography. I see now that what I mistook for lustful sex was a misguided attempt at self-nurture. In the end, paying for sex is an act of spiritual damage that degrades both parties. Acting out solves nothing and becomes a vicious circle – only surrender to a program really works.

Recovery has shown me that healthy sexuality is possible and that sex can be a spiritual act; nothing to be ashamed of. At the same time the fellowship has given me both a support network and a team of mentors who help keep me on the right path and who really care. I now live with less fear and more honesty and I have a trust that I can deal with what life throws at me. Whilst my first relationship since recovery recently ended and this has been sad for me, it shows me that I am capable of sustained intimate relationships. This is truly a miracle that vindicates my decision to commit myself to the fellowship. Change is possible. You just have to have the courage to take the first step and to keep coming back!

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