Where It All Started
As I look back on my life and experiences, it has been a process of understanding of how things have come to pass. It has taken the experience of coming to grips with my sexual addiction to finally reconcile with behavioral connections from my adolescence.
I grew up in a traditional family with a domineering and controlling father. Both of my parents were functioning alcoholics who self-medicated themselves during times of extreme strife. My father had an affair that was discovered by my mother. There were physical and verbal altercations between them which filled the house we lived in. I bring this up because this was the cement for me that solidified my need to get away from any feelings and escape.
Numbing the Pain–Drugs, Sex and Love
I drank and smoked pot on Fridays or Saturdays and never thought twice about it. I also began a pattern of seeking validation from how girls would respond to me. Picking up girls and getting some sexual experience would check so many boxes. Validated because she thinks I’m cute? Check. Validated because it made me feel like a real man? Check. Numbed my emotional pain and helped me cope with the madness at home? Check, and check.
During my high school years when this went on, I began to hone my skills with girls. I was also competing with the other boys in the pack and it felt great to be seen as a guy with skills. It made me feel older to be able to have success with girls. I began to see girls as targets to be picked up. To be used, sexually and emotionally. However, the odd thing is that I had also become a bit of a romantic as well. I craved the emotional feeling they gave me and I see some formations of love addiction in those times, especially since I was emotionally abandoned by my mom.
Porn Entered The Scene
During this time I was regularly masturbating to porn, magazines and whatever else I could find..even scrambled cable. I had a voracious sexual appetite and I began to really love the art of meeting and picking up girls. It was the most adult thing I could imagine and it became my drug of choice. I did have a girlfriend or 2 in high school but certainly nothing serious or lasting. The thought of being with just 1 girl was out of the question. I would also step over anyone to make sure I could get at a girl. There was no honor among this thief.
That experience was very representative of me in high school. Every moment out was seen as an opportunity to try and pick up. Getting a phone number, a kiss or some indication that a girl was attracted to me, gave me a big rush. It made me feel special, like I had some value. Although I wasn’t connected to this thought at the time, it also began to fill a void inside me.
The Cycle Begins
And so began the early cycles of my behavior. I would feel the shame of my long buried secrets, my parents failing marriage and ongoing violence. Over time, my secret and growing attraction to porn took me to some of the seediest places and compounded a general lack of self esteem. I would turn to masturbation and porn in an effort to numb or to get a rush from it. I fantasized about the women I could conquer and I wanted to have a life of freedom where I could pick up girls and do as I pleased. There were girls that I dated briefly or fooled around with and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about it. Bragging rights were a big part of the experience. Not only did I receive validation from the girls I met, but I got a double dose when I retold the stories of what happened to the guys I knew.
I think it’s also good to mention the pervasive pattern of lying I began to develop during these years. I became a master manipulator, working one parent off another to get what I wanted. I lied about staying at a friend’s house, working late, going to a movie, you name it. The lies were piled on more lies because that was the only way I could manipulate for my freedom and get to do what I wanted.
Filling the Void
I was coming of age in college and that was when I upped the ante. I realize it now that it was the time when I repeatedly felt a need to validate myself and fill the void. I began to get a bit of a reputation but carried mixed emotions about all that. On one level, I liked the notoriety of being a ‘ladies man’, a stud or whatever you want to call it. On the other hand, I despised being categorized that way. I was embarrassed by it and also didn’t see myself as that shallow guy that used women and didn’t care.
Years later, I first purchased a computer. At that time, the internet was still a fledgling thing. To be honest, my motivation for getting a computer was that I’d heard you could find naked girls on it. I’d never even known what the internet was all about, but boy did I learn and learn fast. I soon was sucked into a world of newsgroups and slow downloading images of sex and nudity that had me spending hours and hours in front of the monitor. I’d edge while my girlfriend slept, worked or was traveling out of town. God knows how much time I wasted in front of the computer. I also learned about chatrooms and webcams and began to experiment with those. I would have sex chats with strangers for hours. This was a whole new world and it was if a whole new drug had entered my system. The computer and all it opened up for me was a game changer. It added immediate accessibility and it allowed me to escalate my behavior to newer and more stimulating things.
Living the Double Life
It was during these times that I began to explore hookup sites.
By this time, I had married my girlfriend. Sadly, it’s hard for me to remember how long I remained faithful with her and I don’t remember exactly when I first violated my marriage. I may have technically remained faithful, , but of course along the way I was still watching porn, engaging in chat rooms and trolling dating sites for kicks. This was a template for a double life. I never told her about anything and I successfully hid these activities from her.
I never gave much thought to what I was doing, well at least on a highly conscious level. Sure I felt guilty, but I learned to push that deep inside myself. When the pain of it appeared, I just numbed myself with porn and masturbation. When I felt worthless, I sought to create a worthiness through the validation and conquest of women. That only led to the cycle initiating all over. As time progressed, I did begin to have some small measure of self-awareness. I found the encounters to be progressively empty. I wanted intimacy and I began to realize that.
My life followed a similar pattern of periodic stops and starts with struggles around sex. My ego was inextricably linked to success with, or interest from, women at this point. It provided a sense of identity and power for me.
Masturbation also remained a staple of my existence all this time. I didn’t know what to call it, but I was edging quite a lot. I’d edge for hours when watching porn, first thing in the morning, to energize myself, getting dressed, etc.. After all, this was just masturbation. What was the big deal?
The issue is that when I was masturbating, I often was fantasizing and targeting and it’s obvious where that would take me. Eventually, I had a situation which took things to a whole new level for me: I had an actual affair. Not just a hookup or simple sexual liaison, but a died-in-the-wool affair which ultimately fell into a more heated relationship.
I was emotionally involved.
I also became Mr. double life. Husband and family man on one hand, and affair-guy on the other. I managed to keep everything separate and felt that if I did so, everything would be ok. Why can’t I love 2 women at the same time?, I thought. I always told her that I still loved my wife and had no interest in leaving her and the kids.
Soon, we were both all too willing to throw caution to the wind. I started to seriously think about the possibility of leaving my wife but couldn’t bring myself around to the reality of that. During the time I was with her, I’d largely stopped using porn and didn’t hook up with other women at all.
My takeway was that I was craving intimacy and I’d finally found it in this other woman. In my recovery, It has helped me see the importance of intimacy in my life and how critical it can be for me to remain sober. Strange to say that, I know, but that is how I see it.
And Then I Was Discovered
One day, my wife discovered the affair. It was devastating for us both and we fought hard to try and work through the pain. While I was dedicated to this to some degree, I wasn’t fully committed. I was hedging my bet. As time wore on, I was again caught by my wife in another attempted hookup.
My wife was devastated and told me to get out. I was numb and didn’t know what to do. It was during a conversation with a friend that it finally hit me. He asked, have you ever considered that it might be sex addiction? The words hit me like a revolver shot. I knew to my core he was right, but to hear that spoken aloud was crushing. I knew instinctively he was right. I could never face it. He and I had covered a lot of pain in my life and knew the highlights of my sexual escapades but never the complete story. I had kept that from him and from myself.
To be honest, it scared the hell out of me. He suggested that I find help and I soon found myself in a program. It was there that I finally embraced my sex addiction, giving it a voice. I sat among my brothers in pain and addiction and shared my story as I’m sharing with you now. I faced my shame, spoke of it and removed its power. Shame no longer holds me as prisoner. I have, and continue to face, my demons, honestly and with the help of others around me. I no longer think I can do it alone. I’ve given up that notion. I’ve also discarded a life of selfishness where the pain of those around me is tuned out. I am reaching out to others to help and it gives me strength in the process. I am also on a spiritual journey which has been my saving grace. I have reconnected with my religious roots and I am learning the essential tenets of true spirituality. I practice spirituality daily and it has been my primary anchor, helping me in grace to remain sober. The teachings I love, focus on freedom from disordered attachments and I have come to see a life of faith not as a world of deprivation, but an existence of pure freedom from the useless things that keep us separated from the Creator. I realize I can’t do it without His help.
It hasn’t been a perfectly straight road, but I remain sober nonetheless. I realize I need the help of others in my life and every day I take a step in a journey toward a life of integrity, joy and freedom.