Many people who come to this website are struggling with some aspect of sexual behavior that could be called addictive, compulsive, obsessive, dependent or otherwise out-of-control (all various ways of saying basically the same thing, which is that a person is powerless over some aspect of his or her sexual behavior and that his or her life has become unmanageable).
However, people can quickly become confused by all of the various initials of the different 12-step groups (known as "fellowships") that are represented on this site. Here is some helpful explanation for the newcomer.
There are at least five different 12-Step fellowships that address a person's sexual behavior. They are all based on the original 12-step fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). From the time of its founding in the 1930's. A.A. has been so successful in helping people recover from alcohol dependence that its format has been adapted to many other behaviors. Several different fellowships for achieving sexual sobriety originated in different parts of the country within a few years of each other.
Some fellowships are more prevalent in some parts of the country than in others. Many smaller localities (if they have any 12-step meetings related to sex at all) will only have one of these fellowships. Larger metropolitan areas often have some or all of these different fellowships to choose from. A large city like Atlanta has every one of these groups. All of these fellowships exist to offer "experience, strength and hope" (a famous phrase originating in A.A.) to a person who is "powerless" over some aspect of his or her sexual behavior.
"I was willing
to put everything
I had into it."
(A.A. "Big Book", page 380)
The definition of what constitutes sexual "sobriety" is not the same among the five different fellowships. Knowing these differences can be helpful in deciding which fellowship best suits the individual needs of each person seeking sexual recovery. The sobriety definition of each fellowship is described below (with as much language as possible taken from the official position of each fellowship).
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
SA is the only fellowship (other than SRA, below) that specifically defines sexual sobriety for its members. According to S.A., "for the sexaholic, any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive......This will and should discourage many inquirers who admit to sexual obsession or compulsion but who simply want to control and enjoy it...."
SA defines sexual sobriety as no sex with one's self or with anyone outside of "one's partner in a marriage between a man and a woman". No SA meeting is allowed to deviate from this policy. SA meetings are not listed on this site, but can be found at saatlanta.org/meetings.
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
According to SAA, the goal of its members "is abstinence from one or more specific sexual behaviors. But unlike programs for recovering alcoholics or drug addicts, Sex Addicts Anonymous does not have a universal definition of abstinence...........Most of us have no desire to stop being sexual altogether. It is not sex in and of itself that causes us problems, but the addiction to certain sexual behaviors. In SAA we will be better able to determine what behavior is addictive and what is healthy. However, the fellowship does not dictate to its members what is and isn't addictive sexual behavior. Instead we have found that it is necessary for each member to define his or her own abstinence."
Sex And Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)
SLAA addresses both "sex and love addiction" which is defined as "any sexual or emotional act, no matter what its initial impulse may be, which leads to loss of control over rate, frequency, or duration of its occurrence or recurrence, resulting in spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, and moral destruction of oneself and others." In SLAA sex and love addiction "may take several forms—including, but not limited to a compulsive need for sex, extreme dependency on one or many people, or a chronic preoccupation with romance, intrigue, or fantasy. An obsessive compulsive pattern, either sexual or emotional, or both, exists in which relationships or sexual activities have become increasingly destructive to career, family and sense of self-respect."
"Sobriety" in the SLAA program is defined as abstinence from one's self-identified "bottom-line behaviors"
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA)
SCA states that: "Members are encouraged to develop their own sexual recovery plan, and to define sexual sobriety for themselves. We are not here to repress our God-given sexuality, but to learn how to express it in ways that will not make unreasonable demands on our time and energy, place us in legal jeopardy -- or endanger our mental, physical or spiritual health." Although the SCA fellowship originally sought to address issues of sexual compulsion among gay and bisexual men, it is open to all sexual orientations, and there is an increasing number of women and heterosexual men participating. .
SRA, the smallest of the 12-step fellowships (there are no SRA meetings in the Atlanta area), is a variant of Sexaholics Anonymous that differs only by extending monogamy beyond marriage: "Sobriety is the release from all compulsive and destructive sexual behaviors. We have found through our experience that sobriety includes freedom from masturbation and sex outside a mutually committed relationship."