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Using the Telephone in SCA

Making Calls

The greatest ally of sexual compulsiveness is isolation, and one effective means to break it is the telephone. It’s one tool that’s always within reach, a proven “crisis buster” that provides a meeting between meetings and a lifeline when we’re unable to get to a meeting.

And yet almost everyone starting the program feels uncomfortable about using the telephone. And so do many who have been around for quite a while.

We fear people will be annoyed by our call. Sexual compulsion being a disease of low self-esteem, we feel nobody could possibly be interested in us. Or that we won’t know what to say. Or that there will be awkward pauses. Or … or … or …

But the other side of our low self-esteem is a towering vanity. It makes us feel most people are not quite up to our standards, and we fear that our privacy will be invaded if we start making contact with people we hardly know. What if they give us advice we don’t want? What if they begin calling us when we don’t want to be called?

It’s Not an Ordinary Phone Call

We need to learn that an SCA telephone call is not like ordinary phone calls. We, in fact, have to learn a new attitude to using the telephone. But it isn’t something you can work out in your head. It’s by doing it that you learn to do it.

So the important thing is to start making a lot of calls. This can be as frightening as walking into our first meeting and as rewarding.

It may be helpful to ask your Higher Power to be present as you’re calling, to give you guidance, the ability to be rigorously honest, and the wisdom to recognize and accept what you need to hear from the person you are calling.

It requires willingness. Don’t try to figure out why, don’t try to talk yourself out of it or even into it — just do it. At every meeting try to get at least one new telephone number and use it as soon as you can. Carry your SCA telephone list on you at all times, apart from your other phone numbers, and keep it fresh and up-to-date.

Set yourself a daily goal. One call is good. But some members promise themselves to make three program calls a day, some six, some fewer, some more. If you’re shy, it can help to start big. If it’s hard for you to make one call, you’ll find it’s easier to make two and easier still to make five. Each call becomes progressively less traumatic.

It doesn’t matter if the calls are “successful.” At this stage you’re simply trying to learn to make them, not to enjoy them. The action right now is more important than the result.

Practice Makes Perfect

An SCA call isn’t a social call. It’s a spiritual tool, and shouldn’t become an idle gab or gossip session. It isn’t a means of striking up a friendship, though friendships often result. You don’t phone someone and then wait until he or she calls you back before you call again. There are many reasons the other person may not phone you, and they aren’t important. Some telephone relationships remain “one-sided” for years or forever. They are no less effective for that.

Making SCA calls takes practice. Therefore it’s good to begin before we are in desperate need. If you’ve gotten someone’s number, try calling when you’re feeling fine and have a casual talk, maybe about something of interest you heard at a meeting — just to see if you can make anything “click” between you.

Be Thoughtful and Discreet

It’s thoughtful to ask if the person you’re calling has time to spare. Be respectful of people’s bed times. It’s usually safe to call up to 10 PM, but best to ask if you can call later than that. Some people are willing to accept calls in the middle of the night, in an emergency, but obviously this is not a privilege to abuse.

You ‘re not going to hit it off with everyone you call. You may have to make five phone calls before you find someone you ‘re comfortable with. But it’s a smart investment. A phone call — or series of phone calls — may someday save your sobriety.

Discretion and confidentiality are essential, especially if you call someone at work. Bear in mind that the person you’re calling may have visitors, or be in the middle of an important client meeting or an undergraduate thesis and unable to graciously say “I can’t talk.” Try to get the feel of the situation, if he or she is unable to express it easily.

When the person you’re calling isn’t at home, it can be surprisingly effective to talk to an answering machine. Just pour out whatever is bothering you, knowing that it will eventually be heard. Some people in fact prefer talking this way -­without interruption! But be sure the person you’re calling doesn’t have a roommate who might pick up any extremely personal messages. (If you have a roommate, let people know when you give them your number.) If you call someone and want them to call you back, say so.

Try to Make Several SCA Calls a Day

Once you’ve found someone you’re at ease with on the telephone, try calling regularly to see how that feels. If he or she seems to keep a distance, call after call, you may have to look elsewhere. But if you feel a bit closer each time, you’re probably on the right path. Try working up to calling this person every day — whether he or she ever calls you back or not. It’s important to have at least one person you talk to every day. The ideal is several people (a network of SCA’s) you talk to on a daily basis.

You don’t always have to be in pain when you make an SCA call! Try simply discussing aspects of the program in general -which are always of interest to old-timers and newcomers alike. An interesting telephone technique members have developed is “book ending.” When you have stressful call to make; to an employer-to-be, an estranged lover, or perhaps a redhead you just met with sky-blue eyes and a sultry pout … you make an SCA call before and after. This reduces anxiety and can help you handle awkward situations calmly and gracefully.

Long-distance calls can be extremely important if you’re out of town and want to stay close to the program. Always carry your phone numbers when you travel. An out-of-town call may seem expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than a slip. Some members going on a trip arrange with other members to phone collect so they won’t have any difficulty with insufficient change, or when calling from a friend’s or business associate’s home.

Receiving Calls

One of the important lessons we learn in SCA is that our time expands as we give it. And just as making an SCA phone call is different from a regular call, so is getting one. It’s as healthy for the person receiving the call as the one making it. It teaches us to be available to people in a new way. And it’s every bit as important for sobriety to learn how to take calls as to make them.

Asking your Higher Power to be present and to give you guidance in listening and responding to the caller may be helpful. It is our goal to be the channel of our Higher Power’s wisdom, strength and hope in responding to the caller. Continue praying as you listen to the person calling you.

The Art of Listening

Listening takes skill and patience. It’s not a passive thing; it’s a deliberate positive act and a very important one. You need to reflect on what’s being said and discover exactly what your caller wants from you. You have to learn how to be there for the other person.

It’s necessary to let your caller know if you haven’t a lot of time. But this can be done in a friendly way, so they don’t feel you’re trying to get rid of them. (Unless you are, and this you have the right to do. You won’t be of much good if you don’t want to talk to them.) If you’re unable to talk, let them know this quickly and clearly, so they can call someone else. Their sobriety may be hanging on a phone call, and it’s essential that they find someone they can really connect with.

But make sure you detach with love. Remember how it feels to be on the other end of the line.

Be leery of giving advice, even if you’re specifically asked for it. Try to speak about your own experience, strength and hope, and leave it at that. You might suggest they read an appropriate piece of SCA literature. When in doubt, fall back on the slogans (First Things First, Easy Does It, Think the Slip Through, Let Go and Let God, Live and Let Live, etc.).

Twelve-Step Calls

This contact may be the only exposure to SCA your prospect will have for a long time — until he or she is ready to take the next step. The important thing is to give a general idea of how the program works and the time and place of open meetings. Keep the focus on yourself. Tell about how you heard about SCA. Be wary of lecturing or counseling. Listen for the other person’s feelings. Stress the importance of getting to a meeting. But retain your own anonymity and respect theirs.

Be careful if they start going into graphic details about their disease: that can be dangerous for a sexual compulsive. If they want to know more about the program, you might read them the list of SCA characteristics.

Don’t position yourself as an authority on SCA: we need at all times to remember our limitations.

Pick up the Phone

The most valuable advice we can give on the subject of making program calls is: pick up the phone. Don’t think about it, do it.

(Extract from “SCA – A Program of Recovery” © SCA-ISO)