In our addiction, acting out sexually was a ritual and the idea of stopping was frightening and unthinkable. We told ourselves that without the excitement of sexually acting out, our lives would become lonely and tiresome. Sober did not sound sexy and we were afraid of losing our sexual appeal and allure. We feared falling apart emotionally without our daily sexual fix and we could not imagine a life without it.

We especially feared the strangers in the meetings. How could we trust some stranger with the stories of our sexual behavior if we could not even trust the people we already knew? Of course, we would never be able to talk about our experiences in a room full of unfamiliar people who were listening as we described the things we did. These, as well as other fears and misconceptions, haunted us.

As we began to attend meetings, many things we heard troubled us. There were slogans we’d never heard before and didn’t understand. Also, talk of the mysterious Twelve Steps made little sense. “These people are sicker than I am,” we told ourselves. “How can they be of help to me?” Then someone shared about a higher power. “Sound the alarm!” Must we swallow this religious mumbo-jumbo in order to find peace? Must we join a deranged, brainwashing cult just to get better?

Finally, we heard that sobriety included not masturbating one day at a time. “Isn’t that harmful? If I stop being sexual, won’t my sexuality just dry up? Won’t I explode?” We believed that if we didn’t have sex we would die. Even if we had attempted to stop in the past, we had been propelled more deeply into the acting out. We had rarely known a period of time without the numbing effects of masturbation and were afraid to try.

Also, the thought of spending time in the meetings was cause for concern. “I’ll lose myself, my personality. I’ll become a non-entity.” Then someone suggested that we attend as many meetings as possible. This felt like a momentous life-style change. “I’ll have to give up too many things — I won’t have a life!” But we showed up, continuing to come to meetings.

Some of us found it difficult spending time with other addicts because we had become so used to surviving alone. Even after we came to SRA, we assumed getting better was something we had to manage by ourselves. The thought of reaching out for help seemed frightening and risky. We couldn’t understand why another human being would be interested in helping us. We were certain that sharing the shame of our past with others in the program would mean instant reproach, especially if they heard many of the secrets we had kept hidden for countless years.

In spite of our fear and skepticism, we asked other addicts for their phone numbers, as it was strongly suggested. Nevertheless, many of us were afraid to call. “He doesn’t really want to hear from me,” or “It’s just too late to call her,” were things we told ourselves. However, when we did call, we were amazed to find that fellow addicts listened to our pain — many times until the wee hours of the morning — not judging, not criticizing, but simply listening and sharing their own experience. We found this to be one of many examples of how our experience of early sobriety was quite different from what we had feared and imagined.