Sharon O'Hara, M.F.T.
Sex Addiction Definitions and 12-Step Resources Guide

By Sharon O'Hara, LMFT

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So how might you tell if your compulsive sexual behavior is really a problem?

The basic definition is as follows: You may be a sex addict if you are engaging in one or more repetitive sexual behaviors which interfere with healthy living and result in significant stress to both you and your partner or other family members.

Or see if you can answer yes to more than one of the following questions:

  1. As a recovering addict, have you been unable to remain sober from drugs and alcohol related to your sexual behaviors or romantic entanglements?
  2. Do you spend long hours on the computer downloading pornographic images or interacting in chat rooms while neglecting your job and family?
  3. Do you experience extreme anxiety or panic responses related to sexual behavior?
  4. Have you ever risked your right to practice as a professional due to your sexual behavior?
  5. Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?
  6. Do you have shameful sexual secrets you tell no one about?
  7. Have you made repeated attempts in therapy or support groups to control your sexual behavior, only to find yourself stuck in self-destructive patterns?
  8. Do you feel extremely depressed or hopeless because of efforts to break away from a pattern of compulsive romantic relationships?
  9. Have you ever exposed yourself in public, or engaged in a pattern of secretly looking in people’s windows?
  10. Have you ever been so obsessed with a person that you found yourself committing stalking behaviors?

OK, you say, so maybe I have a problem. I might even be willing to go to a sex addict 12-Step meeting. But why are there are so many different meetings, and how do I find out: Which 12-Step groups might be the best for me (or my partner)?

Approximately 20 years ago a number of people in different areas of the country had the same idea at roughly the same time, namely: "My sexual behaviors are out of control, and I wish there were some 12-Step meetings like AA where I could go for sexual recovery. I know, I’ll just start one!"

This explains why we now have 5 separate 12-Step group programs for sex addicts (SA, SAA, SLAA, SCA, SRA). There are 3 organizations for partners of sex addicts (S-Anon, COSA, Co-SLAA), two for couples (RCA, SA-Couples), and one for sex workers, all with different meeting lists. The following is a guide for making your way through the thicket of possible resources.

SA—Sexaholics Anonymous (Website: www.sa.org). This 12-Step program is the strictest in its definition of sexual sobriety. Masturbation is discouraged, as is homosexual sex. Sobriety is defined as "No sexual behavior outside of a committed marital relationship between a man and a woman." Members are primarily heterosexual men, along with some heterosexual women. Sexual offenders often discover that the strict boundaries of SA are helpful for their recovery.

SA is most popular in Southern California and throughout the southern United States. Lists of meetings and other information may be obtained by contacting:

SA International Central Office: PO Box 111910, Nashville, TN 37222. Telephone: 615-331-6230, fax: 615-331-6901, email: saico@sa.org.

The partner program to SA is S-Anon (as Al-Anon is to AA). S-Anon helps wives and other family members to learn how to set appropriate boundaries, and to focus on their own issues while supporting one another. For information about existing meetings or how to start a new meeting, contact:

S-Anon International Central Office
PO Box 111242, Nashville, TN 37222
615-833-3152
Email: sanon@sanon.org Web site: www.sanon.org

SAA--Sex Addicts Anonymous (www.sexaa.org). This program is open to both heterosexual and homosexual men and women who want to learn to abstain from self-defined "bottom-line behaviors" such as compulsive Internet sex, use of prostitutes, massage parlors, and the like. Masturbation is optional, as SAA members are encouraged to develop their own abstinence plan with feedback from sponsors and group members.

SAA began in the Minneapolis area, although the headquarters are now located in Houston. So if you live in the Midwest or Texas, SAA might be your first place to start looking for a meeting. SAA meetings are also common in California.

SAA International Service Organization: 713-869-4902
PO Box 70949, Houston, TX 77270

The 12-Step partner program for SAA is COSA (Codependents of Sex Addicts). The National contact number for COSA is 763-537-6904. Or write to:

COSA National Service Organization
Post Office Box 14537
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Website: www.cosa-recovery.org
Email: info@cosa-recovery.org

SLAA—Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (www.slaafws.org). This program is similar to SAA in that both heterosexual and homosexual men and women are welcome to attend. More women tend to attend SLAA because of the emphasis on "love addiction," defined as a pattern of painful or obsessive romantic relationships. Members are encouraged to set appropriate behavioral boundaries with the help of sponsors and group members. This program is helpful for both sex addicts and those who consistently involve themselves in abusive, non-nurturing relationships.

SLAA is popular on the East Coast of the United States, especially in New England and Pennsylvania. SLAA meetings are also commonly found in the San Francisco area, in the Pacific Northwest, and in Southern California.

SLAA National Organization: 781-255-8825
PO Box 338, Norwood, MA 02062-0338

The partner program to SLAA is Co-SLAA. There are Co-SLAA meetings available in the Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco metropolitan areas, but not in Los Angeles.

SCA—Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (www.sca-recovery.org). This 12-Step program is primarily attended by gay and bisexual men and some women. In a fashion similar to SAA and SLAA, SCA members develop their own sexual abstinence plans, with group support and guidance from sponsors. There is no formal partners program connected to SCA. SCA meetings are most commonly found in Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta.

SCA National Organization: 800-977-HEAL
PO Box 1585, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10011

SRA—Sexual Recovery Anonymous (www.sexualrecovery.org). This 12-Step program began in Canada during the last decade and from there became popular in the New York area and elsewhere. SRA has a strict definition of abstinence for sex addicts (no masturbation), which is similar to Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). However, SRA is considered to be much more "gay-friendly" than SA, and defines healthy sex as that which occurs between committed partners who are abstaining from self-destructive sexual patterns.

SRA National Organization: 212-340-4650
PO Box 73, Planetarium Station, New York, NY 10024SRA, in Canada: 604-290-9382, or write: PO Box 72044, Bumaby, BC V5H4PQ

SRA for partners has some meetings in the New York Area (http://sexualrecovery.org/sra-anon.htm).

RCA—Recovering Couples Anonymous (www.recovering-couples.org). Both members of a couple attend these 12-Step meetings. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples are welcome: "The only requirement for membership is that you are a couple seeking to restore a caring, committed and intimate relationship.


RCA National Headquarters: 314-830-2600
PO Box 11872, St. Louis, MO 63105

SA for Couples. Similar to RCA, with an emphasis on heterosexual couples healing from their intimacy struggles in accordance with the more strict SA sexual guidelines. Contact S-ANON in your local area for possible meetings, especially in Los Angeles and in Tennessee/Georgia.

S-Anon (national): 615-833-3152 (www.sanon.org)
S-Anon (CA): 818-973-2235



Other online recovery resources: www.cyberaa.com (for cybersex addiction). Or www.onlinerecovery.org/sex/

Many blessings to you and your family members as you investigate these resources. Please let us know if you discover that any of these contact numbers have changed. For therapist resources, a good way to start looking is through the membership list published at the web site of The National Council on Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity (NCSAC): www.ncsac.org.