Where My Sexual Addiction Came From
My story is similar to a lot of men who struggle with sexual addiction in that the start of my addiction happened long before I was full grown adult. I am the youngest child in my family. When I was eleven, other members of my family were having some real struggles. In working through those issues as a family, we discovered that there had been a lot of sexual abuse within my family and extended family.
Needless to say these discoveries were really rough for both my siblings and parents, and these issues occupied everybody’s attention. For me, it was like I grew up in a moment and I was left very alone. People in my life who should have been there for me, just couldn't be, because they couldn't even be there for themselves. I remember at about age 12 sitting in a therapist's office and having her confirm basically that I was alone. In so many words she tried to tell me that my parents couldn't really be there for me.
This reality was very isolating for me and as I continued to have experiences where people weren't there for me, I just accepted that this was the way life was. I decided that since no one was ever going to be there for me, I wasn't ever going to need anybody. I got some help from the Adversary on that one (read Wild at Heart). I was 12 when I first saw pornography and masturbated. My first encounter was just stumbling across it innocently on the Internet.
My Road Through Addiction
As I continued to grow up and pornography and masturbation became more consistent, so did other sexual acting out. I also started to develop a dual life...big time. I was raised LDS (Mormon) and despite my family's struggles we were still relatively active in the church and I did know that my siblings and parents believed in Christ for real. So on the outside I was developing faith in Christ, I was a good kid, and I was good at sports. I was often acknowledged in my family as being the one with no problems, so of course I wasn't going to tell anyone I had real problems. Throughout Jr. High and High School my addiction and sexual acting out continued to grow and get worse.
9th grade was my first real sexual experience, but that continued throughout High School. All this time, I continued to maintain a dual life. Masturbation continued to become more regular as did pornography. By High School, masturbation was happening multiple times a week and pornography was happening in spurts, but I think almost weekly. I never told anyone and no one ever found out. I had the girls on my addiction side and then the girls I really dated. I had a really great girlfriend for most of High School who didn't know anything about my addiction. At that time I never said out loud, "wow I have an addiction". I just told myself every time I acted out that it was never going to happen again.
Being LDS I actually gained a testimony of Christ and wanted to serve an LDS 2-year mission. I went to my Bishop (congregation leader/pastor) and confessed about 3/4 of my sexual addiction. I waited the appropriate time and went on my mission. My mission was a fantastic experience and I grew so much in my testimony of Christ. I continued to masturbate multiple times a week throughout my mission and had 2 different pornography experiences. When I came home from my mission I was on fire with God's love and was committed to not falling back into my addiction.
In what I have come to learn is a typical pattern, my sobriety lasted about 3 months. I had started viewing pornography again and again and finally went to my Bishop to talk. I didn't like my addiction, but I wasn't ready to change, so everything formed into justification for my denial. The thing about denial is that it is not only about lying to everyone else, but it’s also about lying to yourself. I told myself, "I don't need to tell anyone, or bring this up anymore. God knows I am working on it (which I wasn't) so I can keep this to myself (advice of the adversary) and keep 'working on it' (aka quit every night before I go to bed)". I continued to have success on the exterior parts of my life and I used that success to re-enforce my denial and justification. That was really the basis for my denial in my dual life and my addiction took off.
What was once a gap between the two versions of me in my dual life was quickly becoming a huge chasm. On the surface I was working in the Temple (a very sacred place of worship), getting married, serving in a bishopric (congregational leadership), going to college, and getting into my career. I was an all-American success. On the inside I was not ever getting real with God about my issues, was in total denial, was seeing my addiction escalating completely unchecked, and was totally destroying myself (lots of shame). This led me to the height of my addiction. At that time I was masturbating and viewing pornography daily and starting to see prostitutes, which continued for several years. I facilitated it all by stealing money from a business I managed for family. Talk about a dual life. This pattern started not long after my mission and continued until April 2014. My wife never knew about it and neither did anyone else.
What My Addiction Cost Me
Everything. It's like walking around as a shell of yourself. You can't selectively numb feelings or emotions. When you numb out one thing, you numb it all out. By choosing addiction to cope with my pain, in an attempt to numb it out, I numbed myself out of my life completely. My wife would say that she knew something was off. I think my sister said it best in a conversation we had after I'd entered recovery, "If you thought we were close, we weren't...like at all".
More descriptively, I was emotionally numbed-out and checked-out. Addiction destroys the ability to connect (see Johann Hari TedTalk). I was disconnected. This is really hard to see as a disconnected person, because no one walks up to you and says, "Psss, we are all feeling something you're not". It's more like this: You are at a feast with all your closest family and friends andyour favorite foods. Everyone is eating and eating, enjoying and savoring the food, saying "try this one" or "try that one" and you are...you're eating with everyone...but you taste nothing. I could never have experiences that could relieve me of the burden and pressure of emptiness and loneliness. It was constant. My life was very full with people who really wanted to love me, but I was empty and alone. No matter how far I pushed the addiction it could never fill that void.
Finding Recovery and Healing in Christ
For some men that I've met, finding recovery is a slow journey. For me it was like a dam breaking. In April 2014 my wife went out of town for about a week, so I was left home alone. Being a total addict, I used this time to binge in my addiction. My life had been so busy that whenever I acted out I immediately turned to my denial tendencies and got lost in the fast lane of my everyday life. In this binge weekend I had no plans and had to be nowhere. It was really the first time I had to just sit with myself in my addiction. I know there was a lot of grace from God here, because I was able to see past some of the numbness and denial and ask myself, "Why I am doing what I'm doing when I know what I know"? I knew God loved me. I had seen God's work in lots of others people’s lives and had witnessed those experiences. I knew that what I was doing was way wrong and was damaging everything that I loved. I had finally had enough of the burden or pressure of my addiction. I knew that if I stayed in my addiction, Satan would wait until the most opportune time, where he could hurt the most people, and expose me. I didn't know if I'd get divorced, excommunicated from the church, etc, but I knew I couldn't keep going on like this. So I jumped.
One great benefit I had with my family’s background with the sexual abuse is that I had been to therapy. I knew help was possible from a treatment sense and I had enough faith in God to know this was not how my life was supposed to be. The first person I told was my dad, then a therapist, and then my bishop. On the advice of my therapist, I then told my father-in-law. My wife was still out of town and my plan was to tell her first thing when she returned. I wanted her father and parents to know, so they could be a support for her. When she came home I picked her up at the airport and we went straight to my therapist’s office and I commenced telling her everything. Needless to say, it went really bad. Severely bad. My wife really had no idea and was truly blindsided. I don't think I will ever really understand how horrible that experience was for her. After telling my wife is really when my recovery started.
My first stop was the LifeStar IOP (May 2014), then the LifeStar 3-Phase program, with individual therapy and couples therapy. I went through formal church discipline and was disfellowshipped. (Intentionally I will not talk on explaining the LDS Church's disciplinary action, because I feel like this isn't the place, but if you have questions feel free to e-mail me).
Everyone’s recovery is different and everyone's circumstances are too, so here I will only describe my experience. Recovery for me has been a combination of watching the grass grow and jumping off cliffs. My relationship with my wife has been like watching the grass grow. There haven't been these moments where it was like "magic wand" wow! Our relationship just got so much better! But overtime I have seen us change, grow, and be happier. For me personally, recovery has been more like cliff jumping. In therapy I'd be asked to do something hard; intellectually I'd understand it, then spend some time looking over that cliff’s edge being like "I don't know...too vulnerable...will that really make a difference", then finding enough support around me and faith in God to jump! I’d find huge healing and then repeat the cycle.
I've been humbled a lot in recovery. I've also come to learn that intellectually understanding something is what it was like to get by as a numbed out addict. But taking that to heart, internalizing it, and having enough courage to take it to God and apply it in your real life is so hard. I will share a lot of the details and specifics of my recovery process in the blog posts. Here I just wanted to describe how recovery has been for me. I think one of the most difficult things for me in recovery is doing hard things that in the short term don't yield great results, but long term make all the difference. As a numbed out addict, it's hard to do those things. One example for me was just being honest. Initially telling my wife I slipped or lied about something, in the short term, usually was pretty bad. But overtime as I have really developed honesty, that has taken out my shame and gotten me so much closer to my wife.
I have been sober from everything accept pornography and masturbation since April 2014. I came back into full fellowship in the church September 2015 (16 months). I have over a year of sobriety from pornography and 6 months from masturbation and have a lot of hope and healing. I intentionally wanted to share my story not being "perfect", because I'm unashamed. I know I will find 100% sobriety soon if I'm not already there. I will continually have stories of men on the blog from a year of sobriety not looking back, to men who have 5 plus years of sobriety and can't believe they were ever addicted. I know God loves me and he loves you. My hope is that by sharing my story in a vulnerable open way, you can have courage to share your story, reach out, get help, and get loved. If you are struggling with addiction I want you to know you don't have to! You are not alone! The Adversary wants you to think that if you come out of your addiction, or really try and tackle it, that everyone will hate you, that your wife will leave you, that your kids will hate you, and that God will slam the door on you. Don't believe it! Reach out and see!
"What must the sheep do to qualify for this divine help? Does the sheep need to know how to use a complicated sextant to calculate its coordinates? Does it need to be able to use a GPS to define its position? Does it have to have the expertise to create an app that will call for help? Does the sheep need endorsements by a sponsor before the Good Shepherd will come to the rescue? No. Certainly not! The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd." He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home - Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"I said there's plenty people like me, all outsiders like me, and all unashamed and all unafraid to live out what they supposed to be "outsiders - Lecrae