“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” –author unknown
An excerpt from the Sexaholics Anonymous 90 Days of Meditations (SA 2013) written by a recovering addict:
SECRETS REVEAL SICKNESS
I’m as sick as my secrets (SA 186)
I used to keep a lot of secrets. I hid my habits of lusting, viewing internet pornography, fantasizing sexual relations, and engaging in adulterous liaisons. I was afraid my wife and children would find out, so I lied. I lied about where I had been; I lied about what I had been doing; and I lied to myself. I rationalized my lustful behavior by believing that all men did what I did. I denied that my secret life prevented me from being intimate with my wife. I told myself that flirting with female coworkers was acceptable behavior.
My illness had progressively worsened by the time I entered SA. Here I learned that the remedy for my lustful secrecy is to practice rigorous honesty. I gradually become honest, first with God and myself, then with others. As I worked the Steps, I quit lying and keeping secrets. I discovered that openness and honesty improved my relationships with family and friends.
In recovery, I found safety in truth. My wife, who is now my strongest supporter in recovery, told me, “I can handle truth, no matter how painful. What I can’t handle are lies and secrets.” And now, neither can I.
God, let me be honest in my thoughts, speech, and action today.
I have written a lot about my marriage since discovery day a little over a year ago. In January 2014, I discovered my husband had been lying to me and cheating on me for years. I also learned that my husband is a sex addict. Although I used journaling as an outlet for my grief, I did not have the strength to blog until October. I made a conscious decision to take my story back to the beginning and blog in chronological order from discovery. The journal entries were mighty painful to write, and edit, and post, but I have deemed this process worth it.
One thing that is obvious when reading back through my entries is that I have been in a lot of pain, and extremely frustrated with my “new” life and I write a lot about that pain and frustration.
Now that my husband is over a year into his recovery, I thought I would talk a little about the progress he has made. When reading materials and books about sex addiction, I learned that the recovery process takes a very long time. They will always be considered a sex addict, but once they have gone through a number of stages, they might call themselves recovered. I have read in a few sources that the second six months for the addict are potentially the worst in terms of withdrawal, self-awareness, and sobriety. Since my husband recently completed the second six months of recovery, I figured this was as good a time as any to document his progress.
Just like every addict, Blue Eyes has a distinct pathology. There were things that would trigger him. There were events in his life that propelled him into his addiction. Once he felt vulnerable, powerless, stressed or anxious enough, his pattern usually commenced with porn. Viewing porn obsessively and sometimes masturbating provided him a high that fed the addiction caused by the negative emotion. When he was younger, earlier in our marriage, he would also regularly flirt with females. All these sexually driven behaviors fed his addiction. As he got older and his addiction escalated, the porn became more ritualistic and when he was away from home, the masturbation was chronic. His flirting turned into grooming and eventually the grooming escalated to extramarital sex. Eventually even the extramarital sex became ritualistic and habitual. His addiction ran in cycles and it seems, at least to me, eventually he did not even need the original triggers, but there may have always been some trigger, in his mind, that he wasn’t good enough. Even planning a business trip could send him into the addictive cycle, or the obsessive sexual thoughts would trigger him and he would plan a business trip so he could complete the secret sex fantasy cycle. For the last eight years of his sex-addicted life, the majority of his addiction was fed with obsessive texting, sexting, emails and phone calls with the other woman. The sex, either at her house or on business trips, would complete the vicious addictive sequence.
In July 2013, he ended the relationship with his affair partner. I believe he was grooming other women to take her place, but he had yet to consummate anything. He says he really did not want to be that man anymore. I believe him, but I do not think he had the power or control to pull it off. In December 2013, he had his last sexual acting out episode on a business trip to Tokyo. He was by himself and he obsessively masturbated to porn. In his manic state, he couldn’t sleep and couldn’t stop masturbating. He lost a night’s sleep and still had to go to numerous business meetings the next day. He swore he would never fall to the evil sexual monster again. That day in December is now his date of sobriety. It is the last time he acted out sexually, but he was not in recovery. Exactly one month later, on January 11, 2014, his ex-affair partner called my phone.
Although he was pretty immediately diagnosed as a sex addict, he still was not in recovery. Eventually, he found a sex addiction specialist, and then another, and another (sometimes it takes a few therapists before a great match is made) and he entered the SA 12 step program in late January. After nine months of preparation, he completed his first step in the program. He is now working on his fourth step. He has a sponsor and program friends he can count on when he is having a bad day. He attends multiple meetings weekly. He has received his 12-month chip. He has not acted out sexually for 13 ½ months. He went through an intensive 9-day program for sex addicts in June. We attend couple’s therapy once a week. He attends personal therapy twice a week.
But even more important than all of the tools listed above, Blue Eyes was ready to acknowledge that he no longer wanted to live the life he was living. When his ex-affair partner called his phone that fateful January day, he could have done what he had been doing for years… he could have answered his phone and shut her up. He could have fallen into the cycle again by starting up communication with her and then giving himself over to his secret sexual fantasy, but he didn’t want to. HE REALLY DID NOT WANT TO. She finally got through to me and his secret life was revealed, and a part of him was relieved.
I have read numerous stories, articles and blogs that talk about the unrecovered sex addict. There is a page in the Sexaholics Anonymous white book that speaks to sexual sobriety:
WHAT IS A SEXAHOLIC AND WHAT IS SEXUAL SOBRIETY?
We can only speak for ourselves. The specialized nature of Sexaholics Anonymous can best be understood in terms of what we call the sexaholic. The sexaholic has taken himself or herself out of the whole context of what is right or wrong. He or she has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop. Lust has become an addiction. Our situation is like that of the alcoholic who can no longer tolerate alcohol and must stop drinking altogether but is hooked and cannot stop. So it is with the sexaholic, or sex drunk, who can no longer tolerate lust but cannot stop.
Thus, for the sexaholic, any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive. We also see that lust is the driving force behind our sexual acting out, and true sobriety includes progressive victory over lust. These conclusions were forced upon us in the crucible of our experiences and recovery; we have no other options. But we have found that acceptance of these facts is the key to a happy and joyous freedom we could otherwise never know.
This will and should discourage many inquirers who admit to sexual obsession or compulsion but who simply want to control and enjoy it, much as the alcoholic would like to control and enjoy drinking. Until we had been driven to the point of despair, until we really wanted to stop but could not, we did not give ourselves to this program of recovery. Sexaholics Anonymous is for those who know they have no other option but to stop, and their own enlightened self-interest must tell them this.
If my husband had been found out after his first short term affair, when we were all about 35 years old (me, Blue Eyes, Ashley and Mr. Ashley) and with small children, I do not think my husband would have been diagnosed as a sex addict. I do not think anyone at the time would have said that a short term affair with an unhappily married woman while he was alone and traveling (I am sure he would not have copped to his porn and masturbation habits), with all the stress of running his company, of keeping all his clients happy, and orchestrating a venture start up… was sex addiction. I think we all would have said it was stress, and that he had made a very serious mistake, and I’m sure I would have forgiven him and believed he would never do it again. And it would have hurt like hell, but life goes on.
Without a proper diagnosis, and proper treatment programs, and therapy and 12-step, he would not have recovered, and he would have done it again. I do not even think that the horrifying affair with the slutty secretary would have been enough to send him into recovery. I think it took years of my husband living in his addiction, and believing that balancing those two lives, while he was in the addiction, was a very manageable way to handle his desire to have his career, wife and children along with his secret fantasy obsessed sex life. As long as he could keep everything separate, compartmentalized, and keep all the balls in the air, it was all good. Sure the price being paid was the shame, and remorse, and regret, but he had been living with those emotions his whole life. I think as he got older, and things got easier, and he distanced himself from his family, and we were empty nesters, and business was good, he took stock in his life and realized he really hated compromising his values and living a lie. He realized he really did hate the negative emotions that swirled around his sexual acting out behavior, and he really was ready to admit he was powerless.
Beyond all the therapy and 12-step, and disclosures to me and living with my trauma, Blue Eyes has also managed to:
-Acknowledge that he is an addict and that he needs help and he cannot do it alone
-Accept the fact that his actions desperately hurt people and he needs to be accountable
-Have no contact with any of his prior acting out partners, and maturely protect me during the stalker whore scare last month at the airport
-Stop grooming women for sex, stop flirting, stop holding eye contact or staring at women
-Stop viewing porn of any kind and stop masturbating
-Stop blaming his parents and realize he is exclusively responsible for all of his actions
-Become more empathetic to my needs and emotions
-Provide me with, some of the time, the kind of emotional support I need from a partner
-Proactively do household chores like laundry and dishes and not be resentful
-Be honest and open with me, and our boys about his feelings and his needs
-Get back to work part time in 2015 without relying on addictive behaviors and unrealistic goals for the business or his time
-Realize that sobriety is not the goal; the goal is being honest and in touch with his thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Sobriety is a happy side effect of being aware and properly managing his life
Most encouraging of all is that he knows he has a long, long way to go and that living honestly and with integrity is the way he wants to live for the rest of his life.
I also realize the recovery path is a long and difficult one and I sincerely hope Blue Eyes is able to continue maintaining the boundaries he has set for himself, and respect the boundaries I have set for him for my own safety and well-being.
I am pretty darned happy with his progress so far and I am thankful that he has chosen recovery for himself and for our marriage. We are into year two, and our journey continues…