The Good and the Bad About Sexual Addict 12 Step Programs

Sometimes, if a person is struggling enough, attending a Sexual Addicts Anonymous (SAA) meeting or 12 step meeting is necessary. I myself attended several out of a strong desire to overcome and frustration in not knowing what else to do. I attended non-denominational and denomination specific programs. I personally had mixed results. I found both positive and negative aspects of these programs. Nevertheless I would recommend these programs to anyone trying to overcome any sexual addiction such as porn addiction or masturbation.

The Good

One of the main benefits of the 12 step meetings I found was the feeling of “I’m not alone or the only one with this problem.” This was quite a relief to me as not many people are open about whether they have these problems or not.

The other benefit I found was the act of confession. Without going into too much detail everyone gets their turn to uncover their secrets. This feels great because part of what fuels addiction is secrecy. It was quite a relief and felt like I was getting a heavy weight off my shoulders.

I found people very willing to befriend and help me in the denominational group. I felt like I always had someone to talk to who would know exactly what I was going through.

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The final benefit I got from these meetings was accountability. I knew if I made a mistake I would have to report it to the group the next time I went in. They had these colored chips that were given to people for abstaining for certain lengths of time, the minimum chip being a one month chip.

The Bad

The bad things are what made me stop going to these meetings. Keep in mind these are just my opinions and you won’t necessarily feel the same. The other reason I stopped going could have been because of distance and laziness but those are not very good excuses.

The number one negative thing I found with these meetings was the labels. Every meeting begins with every person stating their name and then stating they are an addict. For example, “My name is Joe and I am a porn addict.” First of all, this just didn’t feel right to say in front of all those people. Second of all, yes I may be struggling with porn but repeating that phrase certainly doesn’t give me hope of being something better. I agree with admitting problems but not labeling myself as a porn addict every meeting. This just doesn’t help my identity or self-esteem.

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The second thing was the confession. Though it felt good to get it all out, it also felt bad telling that many people about something private that was in no way injurious to them personally. I am under the belief that confession should only be unto those who have been harmed. Besides, some of these meetings were coed and that just felt even more weird.

The third problem was some people were giving too much detail when it was their turn to confess. I found this to be a trigger for addiction rather than helpful. In the beginning of the meeting people are told not to be too descriptive but inevitably people slip up. That doesn’t make the whole program bad but I didn’t like it.

The last thing I had difficultly with was there seemed to be no exit strategy. It seemed to me that I was almost expected to attend these meetings for an undefined amount of time if I expected to remain sober. There was one guy, while being a great strength to the group, who was sober for almost two years I think and was still attending these meetings. However, while I was attending, he had a relapse. I couldn’t help but wonder if his continual attendance, despite his success, had caused this relapse. I believe that when a person gets to a point where they are sober and confident for say a couple months then they need to move on and live their life instead of continually dwelling on the worry that they may slip up again. Part of the problem with addiction is thinking too much about addiction.

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All that being said I really think that these 12 step sexual addiction meetings are great for people who are just beginning the process of overcoming their addiction. I also think that after you begin to feel confident enough to work without the group then you should move on. However, every person is different and if you feel like you really need to stay in the group longer then of course that is your decision. These programs are a great option and resource for those struggling. Just be careful and make sure it is actually helping and not making things worse. All these programs are not created equal and you may have to try a few different ones until you find one you are comfortable with. 😉

15 thoughts on “The Good and the Bad About Sexual Addict 12 Step Programs”

  1. Hello,
    I just read this page about SAA. I agree with the points on not having an exit strategy. I’ve been to several dozen SAA meetings over the last few years, and realize that some members have been there for 3 or more years. If I am abstinent for a year, I’d say I’m pretty close to being cured of my addiction. The catch for many, I think, is that they don’t find a better way to live. They think that they have to come to these meetings forever, and will always be an addict. I don’t believe this.
    I think some of these people don’t realize that, although the higher power of the group can provide support at crucial times, they still have to have some control, as we all can’t be at a meeting 24/7. I think there needs to be more of an emphasis on finding that other way to live, and doing it. I wonder who the author of the SAA piece is, and if they will respond directly to me, or just post a message.
    Well, it was a good, insightful read,
    Santa Ana

  2. Here I am at 4:30 in the morning and all the memories have resurfaced. This is not my first discovery but one of many. I had thought/hoped the problem with porn was a memory of the not so distant past. What a Christmas present, I was just looking at my lap top (which my husband has become quit attached to lately). I discovered by looking at the history (which he apparently forgot to clear) that he had again been looking at these horrible porn sites. I approached him about it this Christmas night and was just dismissed. He was ready for bed and I was just keeping him up. He didn’t have to explain anything to me. What am I to do. I am middle-aged and this has been going on for most of my married life. I am not an advicate of divorce except under the event of infidelity. I know….I believe lusting after someone else is a form of infidelity. I know there is no real answer that I can live with. I have felt so alone and verbally and mentally abused for years. It’s our dirty little sectet. I hate living this way. I see others who are obviously in love and I just ache. I long for someone just to actually talk to. He only talks if there is a need. As for sex, I noticed a problem within the first six months of marriage. He stayed up late and I went to bed alone. That’s not normal. Of course the man is usually always the bread winner in the family and that is the case here. There is a lot of dependance as far as money, insurance, a home, a certain life-style. I just hate to think I have another 30 to 40 years left living this way. I threatened divorce at one time and was apparently quite convincing. I was told he would stop….wrong. I am just venting since I can’t sleep and I don’t have anyone else to share with now or anytime. We went to a councelor years ago and he said my husband was addicted to pornography. However, it seems he to being male I was over-ruled in some of my thoughts. Well, I guess I have taken enough of someone’s time if this is even ever read. I really hate my life at this point and ….. Well, I better go for now.

  3. i was introduced to porn at 6 years old. even now i remember vividly the sex scene from the porno that i saw 25 years ago. porn and masturbation has been a curse to me and my family. i found my fathers porn collection my children found mine. how can i tell my sons how to stop. if i cant. my wife left today with my 2 youngest sons. i have lost my everthing. i stopped masturbating last year around this time. and i went a full four months without doing it. i did not attend a twele step program. it was will power i guess. at this very moment, i dont know what to do. masturbation is not a drug u can buy. its not “illegal”. my genitals and hands are everywhere i go. i cant run and hide from myself. i am tired of masturbating.i need help. i dont need porn. i have enough pornogrphy images in my head to last a life time. help me. sometims i feel like the only way to stop is castration. then what good would i be to my wife.

  4. I can see wanting to quit if you have a partner and the masturbating and porn is interfering with the relationship. But what if you’re not in a relationship and have little chance of ever being in one? Quitting to be completely celibate is not much of a motivation. The pressure builds up over time. Without any kind of release I don’t think I could do it (quit)

  5. Masturbation addiction is very real. Today I did nothing but masturbate. As a college student, I don’t have the time or energy to invest in masturbation. I have thought for far too long that masturbation can control me. But now I know I can control my masturbation and pornography addictions. I am going to remove all pornography from my life, and am going to keep a schedule of the days I do masturbate. I don’t need a twelve step program. I only need the determination to conquer some of my most private addictions. Tomorrow I am going to wake up refreshed. I am going to wake up, want to masturbate, and in turn, convert that motivational energy towards doing something else. Everytime I crave looking up pornography, or want to masturbate, I’m going to do something different. I’m NOT letting this take control of me. I will stay positive, and win.

  6. Porn addiction is too strong to tackle alone. SAA and SLAA is resource to realize you are not alone. There are many people struggling without the knowledge that there are others who can help. I put together a site to help others who are struggling with porn addiction to get answers


  8. Well, I really have to say that this website is a big help for me, and I know many others feel the same. The deal on anything a person does in life as routine, is a habit based behavior and mental state. The thing I am learning is that we can replace bad or negative habits with good ones, but you really have to set your mind to the positive effects of change. Much in our lives effects our mental state, so you really have to take a good positive look at your self, (look straight into your eyes in the mirror), and talk to yourself on what ever bad habits are getting in the way of your ultimate happiness, and positive reflection of you. I have found that focusing on wanting to be happier, and reading books and websites on happiness has helped me. You really do have to make the decision that what ever you have a negative habit of doing, is really not leading you to the happy place in life. I have found that by thinking this way really helps seeing how much of a waste of time and energy the bad habit is. Did you notice as you have been reading my reply that I have not mentioned any specific addiction, and only talked about the realities of habit and happiness. To change things in your life, you really do have to focus on what you want out of your life, but what are you going to put in it’s place. Try this: When you wake up, say the word happiness and joy over and over in your mind…then when the thought of your habit hits during the day, say happiness and joy again. For me replacing negative thought with positive has helped change the thinking that drives the habit. The other thing is that there are so many good or positive habits to explore, like eating healthy stuff and walking out doors actually makes you feel great. Try this: When you’re walking say, “I have a beautiful mind, body, and spirit, and I am very thankful for all that I have”. Then list everything good you can think of that is positive. Everything from a spoon your eat soup with, to the grass, trees, sky, blanket, table, chair…everything. Replace the habit of focusing on the habit, with positive thought. Look in the mirror and try saying, “I am an amazing person, and I have a beautiful mind, body and spirit”…look at your self and say that, because it’s the absolute truth.

    Have an amazing day!

  9. there are extremely smart people in this website with crucial insights being thankful and expressing it is words VERY POWERFUL. this progression from darkness to light how important. replacing the bad with the good what a concept. may god put his blessing on this site that everyone coming here will be helped.

  10. I too am dealing with these very same issue. I am middle-aged and with a 17 yr. old son. I too have been very lonely. I also struggle with my identity and feel alone and embarrashed about our situation. I have been married for 27 yrs. I feel betrayed. I find myself wondering, what he wonders about. I struggle with my own sexuality. I have been attending some addiction groups. They are hard to come by. My husband is attending meetings to help with his problems. We have 2 children together. Our son and a daughter23. I have to trust and move forward. I believe the internet is destroying many lives. I want to recommend safe-eyes for your computers at home. Most work places are finally implementing filters. Should have happened years ago. With time I hope to God, our personal lives turn around so normal sexual desires are once again restored.

  11. I don’t know how most conditions occur. This is the first time I have ever really tried to reach out for advice. Seeking online solutions or step by step programs. I don’t know how it starts or started for most but. I assume it’s a story not to different from mine. I can go long times without checking out porn. It started for me when I was young. Becoming curious about a womans body and watching movies to be able to be identified as a man that could one day satisfy his girlfriend. I was 11 and I didn’t have a clue. That it would be such a gross habit. I had in mind that I wasn’t going to have sex til I got married but I wasn’t as strongly willed as I thought. It can quite litterally tear relationship apart and scar your life. I let the excuse brought on by low self esteem as a child convince me even though I knew it wasn’t a healthy habit. As jeff mentioned above though. It is a transformation that can be simple for some and positive thinking can play a big rule. Anyhow, The power of positive thinking is a necessity. So please up the annie and give it a try. Don’t lose time wishing you had later on because we never know what tommorow will bring.

  12. derrick (not a real name)

    — A man told his grandson: “A terrible fight is going on inside me – a fight between two wolves. One is evil, and represents hate, anger, lust, arrogance, intolerance, and superiority . The other is good, and represents joy, peace, love, tolerance, understanding, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, and compassion. This same fight is going on inside you, inside every other person too.” The grandson then asked quietly: “Which wolf will win?” The old man whispered: “…The one you FEED.”—

    I found this on twitter, from a youth pastor who is also a really great Christian musician. It makes me realize that cutting down addiction, specially on my stage, is so hard that it’s almost impossible. I’m starting to think about feeding the good wolf, instead of focusing ONLY by killing the bad wolf. I’m starting to fast today. Slowly trying to feed the good wolf with fast, pray, going to church, and hoping God will see my effort and appreciate it, and eventually free me from the addiction.

    @mikej: This is my first time too to actually find advice on the internet about this issue. Good luck to you.

  13. I appreciate this website and how it is trying to help people. But I think the article about 12-step programs may miss the point. For the first of the three problems the author describes: the labeling oneself tradition is just for the sake of humility and honesty. It helps me to stay humble when I am in a room of recovering addicts who have all struggled/are struggling with sex-addiction of some kind. Labeling ourselves makes us all equal in a way, no matter how much “recovery time” we have. Saying “I am a sex addict” does not mean that is all that I am, but in the context of a meeting, it is why I’m there. Being able to admit it without shame helps my self-image and self-esteem, because I can be a good, normal person among good normal people despite the fact that we are sex addicts. The addiction itself is NOT something to be ashamed of, though of course it has to be dealt with.

    For the second problem, my response is similar. Confession in a meeting is not like confession in a Catholic church or in a police interrogation or in front of someone we have betrayed. It is not some kind of punishment. It is just about keeping honest, with ourselves and others, which is crucial for my recovery. When others are honest about their failures it helps me be honest about mine, and when they are honest about their successes it gives me hope. And we don’t just confess about “slips” with addiction, but with problems with our families or other stressful things which are part of life, and which interact with out addiction. And if you think having women at the meeting is undesirable, imagine how those women feel having to confess to porn/sex addictions to a group of men. They only do it because they want a safe place to get better. In time you come to see we are all just people with a similar problem and solution. Boundaries around sex between group members helps keep us safe.

    On the third issue of people being too explicit in their shares, I can definitely see how that’s a problem, though I have been fortunate that I have not encountered it yet in the groups I attend. In that opening announcement they say that if someone is being too explicit and triggering you you can raise your hand to tell them.

    The last complaint, about an “exit strategy”, is kind of odd to me. If you think you are completely cured of your porn addiction, or decide you don’t want to go to meetings for whatever reason you can leave at any time, no money down, no questionnaires to fill out. People keep coming because it keeps helping, in new ways. A guy with a couple years relapsed you say? Unfortunately, relapse is rather common with this form of addiction, relative to many others. But I doubt it was the fault of the meetings: before meetings I would “relapse” every day or week at most, 2 years of freedom would seem unthinkable. You don’t have to attend meetings 24/7, but keeping in touch with the program and group can help and save you a lot of trouble. Far more common than the occasional relapse is folks who used to come to meetings until they thought they were cured, and are now returning because their addiction spiraled out of control again and they have hit a new bottom, lost jobs, marriages, relationship with kids, etc.

    But the fact is the groups are not just about “being in the problem”. Confessing and commiserating at meetings is all well and good but only goes so far by itself. The real benefit of 12 step groups only came when I actually started doing those steps, under the guidance of a sponsor who has done them. Only the first step actually deals directly with my addiction, the remaining 11 have to do with living life. And we don’t just do them once: they become part of a new, better life. And part of the last step is giving back, helping others who are in pain as you once were. If people with clean time stopped coming the meetings would just be a bunch of folks who could not stop acting out confessing to each other. Where’s the hope in that?

  14. Hi, I feel embarrassed, yet relieved at finding this site. I remember finding my brothers old video collection when I was around 13 and clearly remember what I saw then even though now I am 30! That’s when it all started unfortunately.

    It’s hard being an addict, there are days when I tell myself I am fine and only do it because I choose to, and other days when the body takes over and I need to knock one out!

    I had a hot girlfriend for 5 years, for the nights we were apart we engaged in phone sex and yes..masterbation. I’m now married, but still, have porn and masterbation dependency which is a real shame. I’m determined to beat this beast as it is killing my soul!

    Having read the comments from this site, i’m fired up to do something about it, no more porn, turn to God and ….and……well….that’s where I start to think…for how long can I keep this battle of the wills up……..damn its hard and a pain in the ass!

    Anyone in the UK having the same problem other than me!! As the comment above says, feed the good wolf..screw the addiction, beat it, kill it and bury it 6 feet under…..we need to beat this curse for our wellbeing and to get on with life. C’mon lads, let’s get it on.

    1. All I can say on the saa issue is when my boyfriend was going we were actively looking positive, supporting and hurting , but still trying to work out sex addiction problems.
      When we moved to Florida there is no SAA in our area. We have deteriorated ever sence. We are the most sickning
      Relationship I have ever been in. So much lies, pain,hopeless
      ness. Tears, fist fights, loss of respect. Used to go to phsycotherepy. When he was diagnosed as Sociapath, narcissiam, level 4 Paraphilia, he stopped going.
      I feel understanding groups struggling together can only help. Not hurt. Going it alone did not work for Jon.

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