Save your marriage! Save your Life!
DENIAL: I wasn’t aware of my addictions until I got into recovery; what I did know is that I had never had an intimate relationship in my life. That was not for lack of trying, I tried but found myself continually seeking love; I realize now that seeking is the correct word because there was never any love there.
MISPLACED BLAME: I’d had a contentious, love-hate relationship with my mother for as long as I could remember; I remember one tender moment when I was about 4 and it is hard to remember any tenderness in the intervening years. At the age of eight, I learned to masturbate, even before I could properly ejaculate. I learned that I could soothe my pains and that I wouldn't need anybody else to help. That's how addiction starts, all addiction, both chemical and process addictions are ways to medicate our pains. The late Psychiatrist, Gerald May concluded:, “addictions are really about the pain in our hearts, not about some chemical; we can never really escape until we salve those pains.”
DRIFTING: The day after my graduation from high school I flew from my home in Maryland to my new hangout in Boston. It was a month before I reported in to my family, just in time for them to call off the missing person’s report. I liked my new life so well that I asked for, and was granted legal emancipation at the age of 17; from that point on, I was on my own; the way I seemed to like it.
SOLITUDE: My life was lonely; I wasn’t lonely for people, I was lonely with people. I remember a New Year’s Eve party amongst a group of very good, non-intimate, friends. I had a date, a bright, beautiful young lady to whom who I was attracted. I remember spending most of that night in a corner of the room crying; surrounded by friends and crying because I was lonely. Shortly after that night I split from that young lady; I knew that I would never look back or go back to her; her crying gave me a sort of comfort, not in an evil or vindictive way but it temporarily relieved my loneliness (she really wanted me). From that time forward I fought desperately to never be lonely again. I repeated my pattern of discovering a woman I found smart and beautiful, only to search for another.
SELF-IMPORTANT: Not only were my love interests askew, my work arrangements were not any better. My work environments always worked best for me when I was the boss; to that end I forged three separate careers as a small business owner. Finally, having been forced (for sexual indiscretions) by my financial partners from a company I'd founded, I moved to Colorado Springs and found the love of my life.
FEAR OF INTIMACY: I really fell in love with my new wife, I fell in love easily, but this seemed different. She was beautiful, and bright, but I guess I’d said that before. Despite my desperate need for love, it wasn’t long before I began to sabotage my marriage. Within months, I began my familiar pattern of reaching out and looking but this time the internet made life easier. Instead of constantly approaching women on the job or on the street, I could meet people on-line while I was masturbating to pornography. It didn’t take long to realize that I could act out enough that I would never have to face my fear of intimacy. I was set, a beautiful wife, online pornography and chats and a seeming endless supply of hook-ups. Somehow I guess that I was doomed to failure even with all of that good fortune. It was like I wanted to get caught, and I did; in fact, I got caught repeatedly and each time I got caught I repeated “Never Again!... I’ll never do that again.” Instead of leaving me (as she should have done), Deb knew just how to wound me; her habit of turning over my pictures, as if I were dead, proved to me that I didn’t matter to her. And of course, that was the one thing I couldn’t take; it was easy for me to give it but I didn’t know how to take it graciously. I could love as long as it was on my terms but there was no way someone else could be in control; I was in terrible pain.
DESPAIR: Deb and I separated in August 2003 with really very little hope of reconciliation; I wanted her but knew that I could never really control my behaviors. To sooth myself, I began acting out in earnest. I was active 20 or more hours a day (not a misstatement), I was on the prowl, meeting someone, viewing pornography, in chat rooms, on the phone and tirelessly searching, even while at work, for the love I could never have.
DESPERATE: In desperation, in early September of that year, I typed ‘sex addict’ into the Google search bar. I looked in disbelief (almost horror) when I saw that the top choice on the list was not only in Colorado Springs but it was literally on my path to and from to work each day; a blessing I didn’t recognize then but one I now thank God for continually.
CAUTIOUSLY HOPEFUL: I called the Heart to Heart Counseling Center and attended my first group meeting soon after that phone call, followed soon thereafter by meeting a counselor and then another group; soon, I was attending three groups a week. I’m not sure why I stayed, from that first meeting I began to realize that I would have to completely change my life; maybe I was ready. I remember hearing in that first meeting that someone claimed to be ‘sober’ for 60 days. None of what they talked about in those first few meetings made any sense to me but somehow I was drawn to it; did these guys really have a solution for me?
WORK: I began to get ‘sober’ from sexual 'acting out' but I was still lying, still keeping little secrets. A few weeks later, the group facilitator brought in the ‘intimacy anorexia test’ used to screen for intimacy anorexia. I begrudgingly realized that I scored a perfect 9 for 9; I truly was intimacy anorexic.
PANDORA’S BOX: Great, now I was a sex addict and an intimacy anorexic, “anything else wrong with me?” Well, yes, there certainly was but it turned out that working on these two areas of my life has given me the one thing I’d never had, Intimacy. First I needed honesty; that was hard. My counselor, my new group friends along with a little help from that thing called ‘polygraph’ helped convince me that hiding my thoughts and hiding my deeds kept me sick and confused. I’ve learned that there is much truth to the phrase we use, “We are as sick as our secrets.”
FRIENDS: Perhaps my greatest joy in recovery has been the groups, second of course, to the joy I have found in discovering the relationship with my wife and with God, but even those relationships I attribute to the groups.
INTIMACY: Having a male friend seemed like a waste of time, “How would that get me intimacy (sex)?” The groups taught me to love, they taught me to care about people; I care if someone is sober; I care if someone loves his wife. These guys have taught me emotions, these guys teach me honesty and sincerity, I cry with these guys, I laugh with these guys; I love these guys. I have found that elusive quality I’d never known in life, unselfish intimacy. My theory is that I was taught intimacy by the men in the groups (from God, through the men) allowing me to move that up the ladder to having intimacy with my wife and finally, finally I moved my new found intimacy all the way up to intimacy with God. I have learned to ask God each morning, “How can I serve today?”; the answers are always rewarding.
THE MIRACLE: I don’t want to pretend that having this intimacy has ‘cured’ me; in fact this intimacy thing can be elusive. If my wife is preoccupied, giving me the “appearance” that she might not love me, I can default to that protective mode. Fortunately, God and the men in the groups help keep my head above water until the tide of my emotional anorexia recedes. Before recovery, I could hold onto a bad attitude for days, even weeks, it was a great excuse to go act out and find false intimacy to sooth my bruised ego. Today my ego is not quite so fragile (the men see to that!). With the help I get, that moment of distraction from my wife becomes but a moment of insanity for me, allowing us to have a marriage which I never would have even dreamed about before recovery. My wife has been an angel; just staying with me is an enormous act of mercy, but she is even more kind than that. She often says that she “is glad she waited for the miracle”. I have cried many times thinking of that phrase, that she would honor me like that; God has provided me with everything in recovery.