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Sexaholics Anonymous® is a 12 step support group designed to help members overcome sexual addiction. It is one of several such groups built upon the Alcoholics Anonymous® (AA) model, but the organization sets itself apart in its definition of the problems and goals facing addicts. Addiction to lust is identified as the root of the problem, and recovering “sexaholic” members work to maintain sexual sobriety.
In 1979, founding member Roy K. contacted AA to gain permission to model a program on their 12 step model. Sexaholics Anonymous® began holding regular meetings in 1981. The organization has grown steadily, spreading to Great Britain in 1991, and by 2010, approximately 1,200 groups were holding meetings in 12 countries.
Strict language sets Sexaholics Anonymous® apart from other support groups dealing with hypersexuality and sexual addictions. The organization describes the sexaholic as one who has lost control, and to whom lust has become an addiction. This identification of lust as the core problem sets Sexaholics Anonymous® apart from other support groups that tend to use less emotive language in favor of “compulsive behavior.”
Language surrounding objectives and goals also stands out when compared to other programs. Like recovering alcoholics, sexaholics are urged to abstain, and sex between a married man and woman is considered the only acceptable sexual outlet. Sexual acts with other partners and self gratification are identified as self-destructive acts which only serve to feed the addiction.
As recovering sexaholics, members follow a 12 step program similar to the one developed by Alcoholics Anonymous®. These steps include admission of sexual addiction, introspection, confession of flaws, and turning to God for guidance. Sexaholics are also directed to identify people they have harmed in the past and take steps to make amends where possible, unless this is likely to cause further pain.
Typically, Sexaholics Anonymous® meetings are held in community buildings, church halls, or similar public spaces. Members identify themselves using only first names, and confidentiality is stressed. After a reading or a anecdote from a designated speaker, individual members are encouraged to talk about their own experiences, recent progress and setbacks in facing addiction. They may also give personal thoughts and reactions to the stories of others. Meetings usually run between 1 – 2 hours.
While not affiliated with any church, the moral values supported by the organization make it popular among practitioners of many mainstream religions. Messages such as turning to God for support, abstinence, and the traditional stance that only married couples are acceptable as sex partners appeal to believers of many faiths. The organization is open to all, regardless of faith or religious affiliation.