A member's story

I was amazed.
I am a sex addict. My “drug of choice” was having “harmless”, “secret” affairs.

My first memory of hiding, secrecy and shame, I was 3½. I drew a girl with no clothes on and hid it hoping not to be discovered.

I went to church with my family. I thought about committing my life to God. At fourteen, I decided not to believe in God.

Tongue-tied and shy, I was pushed into dating. On my first date I hardly spoke. She ran into her house crying. Tapes in my head replayed the disastrous date for decades. A date with another girl went better, but I stopped dating for years.

After walking a neighbor home from high school without speaking, she told me how stupid it felt to walk in silence.

In college I was determined to overcome my shyness. My sophomore year I dated a freshman. Within a few months we had sex. We dated through my senior year. I learned to flirt. I fantasized about pantie raids and coeds sunbathing. I put centerfolds on my walls. I made a show of drinking at parties. I would sit in a dark room with binoculars trained on the girls’ dorm. When that didn’t give me enough kick, I went closer. I was picked up by campus security, but my girlfriend and my parents were never told.

In the military after college, a girl from home invited me to a party. A week later she drove 500 miles to the base, and came back several more times. Soon she said she was pregnant, and we had to get married. I thought, “It was her fault.” I relented and married her. Three days later she called and said she had miscarried. I was sure she had lied, that she used sex to trap me.

Out of the military, my wife wanted a family. Unable to have children, we tried adoption, then were houseparents at an orphanage, where we tried twice to adopt. We took foster parent training. It seemed nothing would get us the children we wanted.

We did a lot of partying with other couples. I did a lot of drinking and flirting. One couple was experimenting with open marriage. We had flirted, so she easily persuaded me to abandon my vows. I was hooked on the rush from secret meetings and payback to my wife. I especially liked thinking, “if they could see me now!” regarding my schoolmates.

I looked for other women who would make the first move. My best friend’s wife made a move, which I escalated. Soon we were meeting every week for sex. It took me six months to stop betraying my friend.

Months later my friend said he had caught his wife with a man, and there was an angry argument. Seeing then that my affair was not harmless, my guilt was crushing. On my knees I told God that I was wrong and would do things God’s way from now on.

The next day I got a call at work to come meet our new foster children. On my way home I heard my answer. “Take care of My children,” God said. My wife and I embraced foster care, adopting several children. They became my life and joy. I read the Bible and was active in church. However, I was still an addict leading a double life.

Getting religion did not cure my addiction nor fix my marriage. My wife and I never talked. I felt she used everything I said against me, so I stopped talking. Our sex life became non-existent. I was extremely resentful.

Instead of affairs I substituted voyeurism, pornography, picking up women hitchhikers and going to strip clubs. Even with a wife and family at risk, I couldn’t say ’no’ to sex. My addiction began to include behaviors that risked jail.

I provoked my teenage son until he attacked me, putting me in the hospital.  On medical leave, I had time to rethink my life. I was angry that God wanted me to stay in this unhappy marriage, while failing to keep temptations away. In a rage one day, I moved out of the house. I lived alone for 4 years. In defiance of God who had failed me, I filed for divorce.

What is was like before recovery:

I would frequent shopping malls to girl-watch. I stole women's underwear from Laundromats. I nearly lived at work unless acting out. I drove long distances to strip clubs. I would look for windows for peeping. I got a Post Office Box for pornography. I ate to become fat, so as not to be tempted to affairs. I stopped taking medications, unable to kill myself, yet not wanting to live. I would spend hours curled up in fetal position in a closet. I hated myself for juvenile behaviors that I never outgrew.

What happened:

After the divorce, my girlfriend moved in with me. Soon she confronted me in my addiction. No one had ever done that. Another time she said it was the fifth time she caught me. When she counted them back, my denial cracked.

I sought help, whether or not my girlfriend stayed. I found SAA and came to a meeting. I related to what I heard: the Twelve Steps, the stories and reliance on a Higher Power. Was it admitting defeat to accept and act on these strange new ideas? It felt right, as did my newfound ability to resist temptation.

But I had a problem with a Higher Power. I was still bitterly angry with God. Things began to happen.

First was my need to join SAA. Then a guy at work was active in church, and became someone to talk with about God. I found a support group for those recently divorced. From their book on forgiveness and their speaker, I understood that I needed not just to ask for forgiveness, but also to forgive my ex-wife, God and myself. I helped lead others through the divorce support program. I also asked my girlfriend to marry me and she said yes.

I saw the pattern in these things. I had felt supported and cared for. No matter how I felt about God, how I acted or what I said, I saw that God was always there for me. I decided to turn my will and my life over to God’s care.

I drove 5 hours for a Twelve Step Workshop. I came back “on fire”. I believed HP (God) wanted me to do three things: to start a hometown meeting, to start a literature store for the Intergroup, and to bring Twelve Step Workshops to the area.

I tried the workshops first. But I struggled to find a location for a workshop, and paying for it was another problem. I challenged HP to find a venue, and I set a date for it to happen. That day came and I told my wife I was giving up the workshop because I had nowhere to hold it. She told me someone from another meeting had reserved a place for us at no cost. This workshop was successful, and more followed.

The next item on my list, a literature store, was backed by the Intergroup, and it became my joy to attend meetings in nearby towns to sell literature. I still struggle years later to start a meeting in my hometown.

What it is like now.

I go to meetings. I work on my rage and codependency as well, through the Twelve Steps of SAA. I start each day in prayer, turning my life over to God for that day.

I have a sponsor and maintain boundaries with my sponsor’s approval. I sponsor others. I am in awe that, by following the program to the best of my understanding at the time, I can make a difference in someone’s life.

I work on my relationship with my wife. My wife and I take time to talk.

I do program service. I attend and am active in church. I do community service as well.

Working on my first amends, I wrote a letter, got approval from my sponsor and I mailed it. And I didn’t wait for the answer. I knew I could get a refused letter or angry response. These are beyond my control. I had done everything I could to the best of my ability, taking as long as it took and seeking the wisdom and advice of program members. I was painstaking.

So was I amazed? Actually, I was amazed that the looping tapes of self-criticism in my head stopped.

I continue to make amends. I made amends with my first girlfriend last weekend. My recovery is a gift that keeps on giving.

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