What is SA and how does SA define “sobriety”?
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) is a fellowship of men and women, working together to overcome addiction to lust. Formed in 1979, but meeting regularly only since 1981, it is a relative newcomer amongst 12-step programs. The organization applies to sex addiction, the same principles which Alcoholics Anonymous applies to alcoholism. This means that it is a fellowship of mutually supportive groups, working the 12-steps of recovery. As the SA “White Book” (the main compendium of the fellowship) states “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober.”
SA is not the first or the last 12-step fellowship to deal with the challenges of sex and lust addictions. While one of the principles of the organization is that it does not take a position on any political or social issues, there is no doubt that it is a very conservative fellowship. It’s unique (and uncompromising) stand on sobriety is what makes it stand out from the other groups designed to deal with addiction to lust and sex:
How it Works
“For the married sexaholic, sexual sobriety means having no form of sex with self or with persons other than the spouse…For the unmarried sexaholic, sexual sobriety means freedom from sex of any kind.” This means that sex within committed relationships short of marriage is forbidden.
The approach to sobriety is quite similar to that of AA, which does not differentiate between, for example, wine and hard liquor in terms of maintaining a sober lifestyle. The alcoholic is expected to avoid drinking even a drop of alcohol, of any sort. As the “Big Book of AA” explains, “Half measures availed us nothing.” SA (much like AA) espouses the belief that half-measures are harmful to recovery in general. Rather, a better path requires a full commitment, honesty, and dedication.
Rather the concept is that a firm, consistent, and clear bottom-line best serves to prevent relapses and in facilitating long-term victory over lust. The belief is that any form of sexual acting out, aside from with one’s spouse, is addictive and therefore becomes increasingly destructive over time. As the “White Book” puts it: “Without “a firm and clear bottom line, our “cunning, baffling, and powerful” sexaholism takes over sooner or later.”
The utility of this concept has been confirmed by psychological and cognitive experiments. Individuals are more likely to follow through when committing to never engage in certain behavior than when they pledge to moderate their behavior. The reason is, that violating your pledge by committing that first act is a much more significant step than committing that second or third act. For example, if you vow to “not eat a single cookie today”, you are far more likely to succeed than if you say “I won’t eat too many cookies.”
Many SA fellows believe that only with a clear common purpose, can spiritual unity be fostered. They believe that the sense of fellowship which accompanies the pursuit of a common definition of sobriety is necessary to stave off lust and bring about long-term recovery. In the long-term, the goal of SA fellows is “progressive victory over lust.”
SA & LGBTQ
Equally restrictive is the definition of marriage utilized by the fellowship: “in SA’s sobriety definition, the term “spouse” refers to one’s partner in a marriage between a man and a woman.” This of course means that same-sex marriages are not recognized. This is in strong contrast to, for example, the Sexual Compulsives Anonymous group which appeals to the LGBTQ community. It is also easily the most controversial element in the “White Book” of SA.
SA vs. SRA, SLAA, SCA & SAA
The concept of sobriety trumpeted by SA differs significantly from what is collectively known as the “S” groups (since all their acronyms begin with that letter), such as Sexual Recovery Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. For example, Sex Addicts Anonymous has a looser definition, and allows each member to create a personal definition of “sexual sobriety” and does not differentiate between same-sex and heterosexual relationships. Meanwhile, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous do not define the behavior it attempts to limit in terms of sobriety, rather it looks at “bottom line behavior” limits.
It is very useful that these different approaches exist since the more conservative and austere conception of “sobriety” is not for everyone. Certainly, individuals in same-sex marriages may be uncomfortable with SA’s definition of marriage. For certain personality types, limiting behavior in what they perceive is an extreme manner, could lead to rebellion against the definition and relapse. Finally, other approaches may be more useful for addicts who have a weakness for a certain type of behavior and can live comfortably with some lust in their lives.
However, SA as an organization is firm on its definition of sobriety and is disinterested in members wishing to adopt other definitions of sobriety. The official literature of the SA fellowship warns that this definition: “will and should discourage many inquirers who admit to sexual obsession or compulsion but who simply want to control and enjoy it, much as the alcoholic would like to control and enjoy drinking.”
The 12 Steps of Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
Like other 12 step addiction programs, SA is structured around the 12 steps and 12 traditions of recovery.
Here are the 12 steps of SA:
1. We admitted that we were powerless over lust—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sexaholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.-sa.org
12 Traditions of Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on SA unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or Sexaholics Anonymous as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the sexaholic who still suffers.
6. An SA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the SA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every SA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Sexaholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. SA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Sexaholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the SA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and TV.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.-sa.org
SA is notable among the fellowships designed to deal with sex addiction for its strict definition of sobriety. This makes it a good fit for individuals who wish to remove lust from their lives as much as possible, in order to pursue a new spiritual path.
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) FAQs
There is a significant amount of stigma and trepidation surrounding groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous, which deal with sex addiction. Individuals suffering from sex addiction, their family and loved ones, and the public often have important questions about the organization and its purpose. This FAQ should answer some of the most common ones.
SA is a 12-step program designed to help men and women suffering from sex addiction. It is inspired, as most 12-step programs are, by the original Alcoholics Anonymous model. It was not the first organization to deal with this issue. Rather, it was intended as an alternative to other fellowships. Founder Roy K believed that existing fellowships were too permissive in their attitude towards sobriety.
It has remained a popular organization ever since. Members tend to be male, although there are female members. They also tend to be more conservative and religious than members of other groups dedicated to this malady.
SA differs from other organizations with a similar goal in its more expansive definition of sobriety. The White Book defines sexual sobriety in the following terms:
“For the married sexaholic, sexual sobriety means having no form of sex with self or with persons other than the spouse…For the unmarried sexaholic, sexual sobriety means freedom from sex of any kind.”
This definition means that having sex with a committed partner outside of marriage is not permitted. The approach adopted to SA is inspired by the original AA definition of sobriety. AA calls for absolute abstinence from alcohol. The Big Book of AA explains that avoiding drink is necessary since addicts have discovered that “half measures availed us nothing.” SA similarly believes that lust should be strenuously avoided.
The White Book (the major SA book written by Roy K) explains the effectiveness of the fellowship in this way: “We have a solution. We don’t claim it’s for everybody, but for us, it works. If you identify with us and think you may share our problem, we’d like to share our solution with you.”
There are no reliable studies on the effectiveness of SA or other groups designed to deal with sex addiction. However, anecdotal evidence shows that SA has helped many individuals overcome their addiction to lust and lead happy and fulfilling lives. SA works for the same reason AA does. It provides social support and a spiritual foundation on which to build a new life free of addiction.
The definition of sobriety AA subscribes means that the group is not for everyone. But it is a highly effective bottom-line for people who cannot handle moderate sexual activity without falling deeper into lust.
Generally speaking, no. The definition of sobriety calls for abstinence from all sexual activity aside from marital intercourse. The individuals attending the meetings are usually individuals who are very interested in overcoming lust and diminishing the role of sex in their lives. However, there may be individuals here and there who either have impure intentions or succumb to temptation.
Like most 12-step groups, SA follows the 12-traditions in its structure and organizational culture. This means that each group is autonomous in its affairs and self-financed. No member governs in a meaningful sense, rather veteran members are given positions of service in the organization. However, doctrine and literature can only be approved at the annual meetings of the organization.
Sexaholics Anonymous does not provide unique coins as some other 12-step fellowships do. Rather, the standard AA coins are used. These are readily available at specialty recovery online stores and even on Amazon.
SA is a fellowship of like-minded individuals, sharing a dedication for overcoming an addiction to lust. The majority of members are male and more conservative. Conventional monotheistic religion plays a larger role in the fellowship than in many other 12-step programs. In many meetings, the Lord’s Prayer is recited in every meeting.
The fellowship was founded in 1979, although regular meetings did not commence until two years later. Another 12-step fellowship, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, had been formed three years earlier. SA and its approach were to an extent a reaction to SLAA’s more liberal approach to sobriety.
Roy Ronald Kuljian founded Sexaholics Anonymous and is usually referred to as Roy K. in SA literature. Members sometimes refer to themselves as “friends of Roy.” This behavior is modeled after the AA habit of referring to members as friends Bill, after founder Bill W. Roy was a deeply religious man, and this showed in his approach. He died in 2009, after having been sexually sober for 34 years.
While AA has become more socially acceptable over the years, SA and other groups like it do not enjoy that same social status. Many members feel uncomfortable having paraphernalia identifying their sexual addiction around the house. SA members do commemorate sobriety birthdays, but do so using the same coins used at AA meetings. For similar reasons, the main book used by AA members is completely white and has no identifying features on it.
We hope this answers your major questions on SA. If you have more, consider consulting the SA “White Book” or other official literature.