One by one, men trickle into the unadorned upstairs church classroom for their regular Thursday night meeting. But the gathering isn't to discuss plans for evangelism outreach, worship-song selection, or expanding the nursery.
"I'm Kevin and I'm a recovering sex addict," one of the eight men seated around the table says shortly after the meeting begins. Each man talks uninterruptedly for up to five minutes about how he's faced a myriad of sexual temptations. No one is allowed to advise, criticize, defend, or excuse the behavior of another man during this faith-based, 90-minute, 12-step recovery meeting called Operation Integrity.
These aren't convicted pedophiles or registered sex offenders. They are churchgoers, businessmen, and seemingly model husbands. Throughout the country, there are men by the millions sitting comfortably in church pews every Sunday who haven't told anyone about their sexual addiction. But the men in this room have come to terms with their own powerlessness over destructive sexual habits.
After sharing their stories, the men take turns reading paragraphs from When Lost Men Come Home, written by Operation Integrity (OI) founder David Zailer. Lively discussion ensues.
The meeting provides a roller-coaster ride of successes and frustrations from the past week. Words such as "sin," "addiction," "acting out," and "selfishness" are repeated. These men are doing better than when they started the group; none is where he hopes to be.
This OI chapter meets at Coast Hills Community Church, a nondenominational Southern Californian megachurch in Aliso Viejo, where Zailer attends. The men represent four area congregations.
Sonny relates the temptation of seeing a curvaceous female wearing a string bikini at a nearby beach; ...