Written by Male Sex Addict. Shared at his request. I've read many blogs on sex addiction recovery. Many from religious points of view particularly the LDS point of view which is what I’m most familiar with having lived my life as an active Mormon. While I do not want to minimize those blogs I’ve always felt I did not quite relate to any of those. In comparison the actual sex addicts I’ve met and become friends with on my recovery journey are real and much easier to relate with. I know most of that is because of the vulnerable and honest exchanges we’ve had over time.
Just like you I’ve read stories in papers, online articles and listened to radio shows all discounting sex addiction as a real addiction. Or they equate sex addiction to sex offenders. Some of them are well meaning but obviously misinformed. I want to tap them on the shoulder and say “you’re looking at this wrong, you need a different perspective”. That’s what my therapist has told me from day one about myself.
Most blogs seem to start with “My Story” but for me that is not how my recovery began. I was in denial of “my story” at the beginning. I could not even see it let alone share it and therefore I will begin at MY beginning, therapy.
The first baby steps. My recovery process began in September of 2012. I had been court ordered to get some counseling. (I know this may seem an odd place to start because some information feels like its missing. But for those in my recovery circle at the time this is all the information I shared. Fear drove my actions and that fear did not allow me to expound more than this at the beginning.) I had six months to complete 10 sessions with a therapist. At first I didn’t want anything to do with therapy so I procrastinated and by the time I had my first appointment I had less than 10 weeks. The story of how I found my therapist is more than we need to go through here but maybe in another post as it is part of my “story”. I will just say that I made appointments with two other therapists and canceled them before finally starting recovery with Candice, my CSAT (Certified Sex Addition Therapist) therapist. There are no accidents, things happen for a reason. Let me say this, I will probably say it many times, everyone that is honestly seeking recovery deserves a therapist like Candice! I knew from that very first terrifying appointment with Candice that I had made a crucial step forward in my life. Because I was court ordered, after each of those first dozen or so sessions she would ask if I was still interested in coming back. I reiterated each time that I was there for me not for the court order. Something had clicked in my mind and I knew I had to do this. Near the end of that first session she had me sign a 90 day sobriety contract. In my mind I thought “what the hell is a sobriety contract, I don’t drink?” She explained that I could not look at porn and I could not masturbate. I believe she also said something about no sex with my spouse but it had been 9 months since we had had sex so that was not going to be difficult. I quickly took an inventory in my head thinking how simple this would be since I don’t have a porn or masturbation addiction. The hiccup came when I realized she was talking about cutting off contact with past or current acquaintances and that meant my “friend”. I called her my friend because that is what she was to me. Candice would later challenge this title of “friend” so I’ll call her AP which I’ll explain another time. My friend (AP) and I had had an affair in the past, which was our initial contact with each other. But it had moved beyond that, moved from the physical, to become a friendship. I my eyes she was my only true friend. Not my lover or sexual partner but my friend and confidant over the previous 5 years. I talked to her daily either through emails, text or phone calls. Standing in Candice’s office I was in total panic, my stomach was in knots, I felt light headed, lost and alone. The panic must have shown or maybe I was physically shaking, I don’t know what showed but Candice calmly allowed me to exempt AP from the contract since it was not a physical relationship. I had shared how AP was the only person that I could talk to. This adjustment to my sobriety contract kept me in recovery.
That very day, after I signed the sobriety contract, I went into my secret email account and set about cutting off all ties to my addiction. That meant telling everyone I was communicating with through there that I was deleting the account. When I was talking to Candice I think I told her there were a few women I was talking to and that I could easily do this even though I had acted out the previous week. When I got into the account I found that I was communicating with 12 different women ALL at some level of inappropriateness for a married man. Most of them I was working with to arrange some rendezvous. I was an addict and it was screaming at me just how far out of control I was.
Looking back I realize why I felt so overwhelmed that first day. Candice was asking a lot of me and fast. She knew I was in a window of hope that she had to take advantage of to push me towards sobriety and recovery. In that same first appointment she told me a book I had to get and read, Out Of The Shadows, by Patrick Carnes. So much information piled on me, so many requests. I was quiet, shy and said only what I must to Candice BUT inside I was determined to gain from this for the start! I bought the book the next day. I had preconceived ideas of what it would say. I was used to the condemnation I felt from religious leaders and fellow travelers in this life for what I did in secret. I KNEW that this book would be more of the same that would bring out the shame I harbored inside but I would trudge through it because I had told Candice I would. Something I learned later in therapy was evident in that first appointment, that I did not know how to say no. In this case it proved to be beneficial.
How wrong I was about that book! I began reading at lunch the following day with my low expectations of interest in this book. After reading for my entire lunch break not really even eating I was shocked at what I felt connected to. I could not relate all of the examples Dr Carnes shared but the ones I did relate to touched my heart. I felt for the very first time in my life that maybe someone knew what I was going through even if I did not really understand it myself. I felt that there were others who had been through this hell and worse. I headed back to work but my mind was still lingering on the fact that I wasn’t alone. (I would draw some comparison to finding out that you are not the last human being on the earth but that is not the alone feeling I had lived with. It is probably better described better looking at my mission I served in the orient. There were many times I was only person with a big nose, pale skin and anything but jet black hair. I wasn’t alone but I was SO different I was alone.) Sitting at my desk I was yearning to read more and unable to focus on my work. This was a commons feeling being an addict but the subject of my daydreaming was this book. I finally got up, went to my car and drove to a deserted road so I could read some more. I finished the book in two days which, for a slow reader like me, is saying something. I will admit I skipped one section as it made me uncomfortable. I did not realize at the time why it made me so uncomfortable but looking back with the eyes of my recovery and knowledge of my past trauma I understand.
The requests from Candice for this first session are not complete yet. I had one more requirement she asked of me which was to take the SDI (Sexual Dependency Inventory) before we met again. If you have not taken the SDI or even the sexual addiction screening test (SAST) let me tell you it can be an intimidating task. Fear of being caught or found out, gripped me in all I done for many years. So much of my life had been done in secret this was simply another activity for me to hide from everyone. Candice warned me that taking the SDI could be triggering and that I should take it when I would have some support to help me from acting out. That was impossible for me as my spouse did not know I was even in therapy let alone taking a Sexual Dependency Inventory. She would be mortified. My friend, AP didn’t think Candice knew what she was talking about because we all know “Sex Addicts” are offenders and AP knew I wasn’t an offender. I was on my own to take this. Only knowing how to function as an addict at this point, constantly looking for secrecy and very adept at hiding my activities, I took the SDI on my smart phone sitting in a McDonalds using their free wifi for over two hours. It was exhausting and frightening. I feared most what Candice was about to find out about my secrets but I would have to wait a week to learn for myself.
And thus I had taken my first baby step towards recovery.