“Hi, I’m Tarun and I’m a sex addict,” said a young man dressed in smart casuals to a small group of people seated in a circle.
Tarun, a professional in his mid-20s, started masturbating to porn when he was 11 and was soon hooked. “Before I knew it, I was addicted to porn and it got so bad a few years ago that I started touching and feeling up women in the Metro,” said Tarun, revealing his darkest secrets to the small group listening intently.
All the eight men in the group, the youngest being a teenage college student and the oldest a retired professional in his mid-sixties, are strangers to each other and want to remain so. They use assumed names and are part of the Delhi chapter of Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA).
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Started more than a year ago, the Delhi chapter of the SAA was the first of its kind in India. “During my stay in the US, I chanced upon several SAA chapters and saw how it was helping people,” said Ramesh, secretary of the Delhi chapter.
“I realized that not everyone could afford to come to the US for rehabilitation. So I decided to start a chapter here,” he added. SAA has chapters in Ahmedabad and Bangalore as well.
The group connects through the website, emails and word-of-mouth to meet every Monday between 6.30pm and 8.30pm in a room in a staid office building near Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, opposite south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area. Each session has around eight to 10 members.
“Timely help can prevent sex addicts from becoming sexual offenders,” believes Ramesh. This is especially important in a city like Delhi, where nearly 10 cases of molestation are registered daily, apart from countless unreported instances of sexual harassment.
SAA follows a ‘Twelve Step’ de-addiction programme based on a template set by Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Group members share their stories and function as a support group for fellow addicts. For most of them, this is the only support they have against an addiction they are too embarrassed to mention even to family and close friends.
Tarun heard about the group five months ago when he stumbled on the SAA website while surfing the internet looking for solution to his disorder. “Sex addiction was affecting my personal and professional life but going to psychologists didn’t help. I would feel restless all the time and didn’t feel like working,” he said. “My life has changed since I started attending SAA meetings. I don’t feel the urge for frequent gratification anymore,” said Tarun, who has since got engaged and is looking forward to a happily-married life.
Others like him who have been cured of sex addiction after SAA sessions are encouraged to attend meetings to mentor new members and prevent a relapse. There are no clinics for sex de-addiction. “There are no medicines for sex addiction and it is treated using psychotherapy, but only a handful of doctors are trained for this,” said clinical psychologist Dr Pulkit Sharma. “Many doctors, in fact, are uncomfortable treating people with sexual disorders,” he said.
(Some names have been changed to protect identity).