[Originally published in Essay 2009 #4]
I would like to share my memories of Roy K., who was perhaps second only to my father in influencing my life for the better.
My first contact with Roy was through a “Dear Abby” letter that appeared in the New Orleans Times Picayune in June 19811. In the letter, the writer described his battles with pornography, prostitutes, street behavior, affairs, masturbation, and loss of self worth. His fatal malady was lust; he was a “sexaholic.” He signed the letter “Set Free in L.A.”
I was floored by this letter. I was reminded of a portion of “Bill’s Story” (AA, 9), in which Bill asks his newly sober friend, “Come, what’s this all this about?” and the friend replies, “I’ve got religion” (AA, 9). Bill said, “I was aghast.” This is how I felt after reading that Dear Abby letter. In the letter, the author defined his problem by a single word—lust—and he had the guts to admit that he was a sexaholic, a “sex drunk.” I experienced a shudder of absolute identification and knew he had nailed my problem.
At the time, I had taken a “geographical cure” to my first professional job in New Orleans, sight unseen. Unfortunately, I had taken myself along, and I was horrified at the depths to which my sexual addiction was taking me. After barely one year, I experienced myself splitting into pieces, watching myself going to places that terrified me. I wanted to stop but could not.
A friend from work decided he would write to the address provided by the writer of the Dear Abby letter, to obtain more information. When he received a response, he passed the contact information on to me. Not wanting to hurry any, I waited three months to call. I dialed the number and Roy picked up on the first ring. I told him I was interested in the program. He shared a bit and mentioned the sobriety definition. He encouraged me to attend any Twelve Step group to get the ball rolling. At the close of the call, he said he was glad I had called and said, “God bless you.” I felt like the lowest form of life on the planet— yet I could not remember ever having heard this phrase from anyone, much less a stranger.
Roy did not know a stranger in the SA fellowship. Once someone reached out, he gave of himself unstintingly. He was warm and welcoming, never judgmental to the newcomer. Roy tolerated contact with unsober me for almost 18 months as I steadily went further down into my disease. Even more astonishing, he asked me if I wanted to be on the SA mailing list! He was preparing drafts of a book and wanted people to read it. The book had a personal story and a brief format to get a meeting started. It described the Twelve Steps of the SA program. I didn’t understand any of it, but I hung onto every letter and envelope that had the SA message of recovery in it.
I drew the last card in my deck of half-measures: engagement and a projected marriage to someone I had drafted for the cause. I never heard a single note of criticism from Roy in the months I had deluded myself that I could be cured of this progressive and fatal disease. I know that what I received from Roy was unconditional love: the very thing that I had searched for and now had found.
By the time I gave up and accepted that I was powerless over lust, I had moved to another state. I was connected with an SA group in Forth Worth, TX. A year previously, Roy had directed me to write a Step One, formatted into three columns: “What Happened,” “How I Felt,” and “What This Told Me About Myself.” Still under the toxic influence of lust, I ran madly away and couldn’t pick up the pen—until I connected with my new group.
I finished my inventory and gave it away at one month of sobriety. Despite group membership of men who were in various stages of recovery from the disease, Roy counseled me to keep the focus on myself and to really commit to my group. I walked through the door and into the Light.
Roy called frequently and often gave me phone numbers of women who needed to speak to other women. All members’ numbers and addresses were given to just about anyone who asked. I started to receive letters from total strangers, some of whom lived thousands of miles away. I had never heard of this, but I tried to act as if I understood this imperative to stay in contact with others who wanted and needed the program.
I met Roy for the first time in the Spring of 1982 in Los Angeles. He took me to a meeting in the city. There were four of us. One of the members suggested a reading from Paul that describes the characteristics of love: “Love is patient, love is kind…” Again, another gift I was offered that baffled me. Seven years later, this verse was included in my wedding to my husband, Dan.
In the interim, I moved again, lost my group, and hung on with car meetings. I would sit in my car and speak with anyone who would listen to the message I urgently repeated. In 1986, while studying for comprehensive exams, I was assaulted. The perpetrator was never found, but I subsequently received “The Joy Response” from Roy. Members will find this story today in Recovery Continues (38). The manuscript arrived at the best possible time. It was another one of the quiet miracles I experienced through Roy K.
The year 1987 was a turning point for me. I was at the end of my rope without a committed meeting in my community. I had tried dating briefly, always bookending with Roy. I was beginning to believe that my recovery was optional, that maybe what I had wasn’t all that much after all. The previous December, I had finally made it to an international convention in St. Louis. I met my sponsor, Sylvia, who sponsors me today. I met Jean P. and a few others with whom I shared a true fellowship. I was asked to lead a retreat in the Seattle area and I asked Jean to be a co-leader. I met friends such as Murray R. of Surrey, B.C. (Murray has passed on, but I understand he remained sober to the end of his life).
Perhaps the biggest thrill for me in recovery was Roy’s invitation to me in August of 1987 to serve on the infant International Group Conscience Committee. This was the forerunner of the General Delegate Assembly. My gratitude knew no bounds when I was put forward as a servant for the first Board of Trustees. I cannot express what this meant to me. I was going through a difficult time and SA service was the shining light that always propelled me into forward motion. Without Roy’s encouragement and support, I might have given up entirely on myself and on SA.
I was asked to serve in the years I lived in New York (1989-1994), and Roy and I had a falling out. Sometimes we addicts can aggravate each others’ issues and defects of character. For a considerable period of time, the phone calls from Roy stopped.
When I returned from a Northwest Regional retreat in May of this year, I received a message that Roy had called. Several days later, he called again. After several days and weeks of discernment, I returned the call. Again Roy picked up after the first ring. He was calling to make amends. I accepted his amends, and he accepted mine. I believe we spoke again a few weeks later. I was in an SA meeting when a home group member announced that Roy had lost his battle with cancer.
I have grieved for Roy and have allowed myself to experience the strong feelings I had for this fearless man who spoke his truth to have victory over lust. His life was a testament to his determination and grit to see that the message of sexual sobriety would reach all who suffer from this terrible disease. His commitment to this life-giving fellowship is echoed through the words in any gathering of two or more who seek the comfort and solace he modeled to us, his friends.
—Yours in love and service, Katherine D.