I wonder what to share here so that you can know me as a real human being while at the same time maintaining my anonymity. To begin with, some basic stats: I’m a recovering sex addict and an atheist. I’ve been married to my best friend for over 25 years and we have four children together. I like toast.
What I really want you to know is that I’m a real person. I’ve had tough times, times where I honestly wanted to die. For most of my life I was waiting for the crazy badness inside me to come out and hurt the people I love most in this world. I’ve been unlucky in some ways, but very lucky in others. I’m much better now. I am glad I did not commit suicide.
If you are feeling like the world would be better off without you, please try just one more time to find a way to stay. You can always leave later if it doesn’t work out.
How to Create a Sex Addict
Take any human child and drop it into a rigid, authoritative family that focuses on maintaining outward appearances. Dabble in swinging and nudity so there’s lots of sexual energy in the home. I don’t personally remember any of that (thanks to the older family member who told me about it), but I do remember doing things that prepubescent children generally don’t do.
A few years later after some sexual habits are well established, force that kid to take sides in a super nasty divorce, getting all those abandonment issues going good and strong a few years before puberty. Then add some random molestations, the neighborhood guy who paid us to do handstands in his lap. (My parents assured me he was harmless.) The neighbor who invited me in for lunch and gave me sweet dark wine. (my parents said that was very nice of him). The guy who puled over and has his penis on a brown paper towel (my parents assured me he was a bad man.) When I told about that guy, my parents flipped. They reported it to the police and I got interviewed by a cop. He had a gun and I had to answer a bunch of embarrassing questions. He said I was a good girl for running away and for telling.
I always told. The following year, I was 11 and just beginning to develop. That’s when my grandfather started with the “hugs.” I told. My parents were sure I was misinterpreting these “bad hugs” from the grandfather, but they asked him to stop. The next time I saw him he cried and cried because “you don’t love me any more – you don’t want me to hug you.” Those petting sessions got more and more intense. We’d clamp our teeth shut to keep his tongue out of our mouths. Ugh. That went on for a whole summer. As we got older, the nudity at home and the complete lack of privacy took a toll. I still panic when someone opens the bathroom door. And I feel vaguely dirty and guilty for closing a door.
Of course it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a sex addict this way. I tried very hard to become an alcoholic. I went to school drunk nearly every day for my whole year during high school. I did all the drugs I could get my hands on, which luckily for me wasn’t much. But nothing worked as well as sex. I started being sexual with boys the year I was molested. I lost my virginity when I was 13 and from then on, I was rarely without a boyfriend. It’s not like I was bad though. Each time I was in love. And these were serial affairs. I didn’t cheat. Usually. On a weekend away, I let this old guy film me. Thank God there were no webcams back then, just 8mm film. I wonder what happened to the little girl he had with him. Was she really his granddaughter? I bought a stereo with the money I earned from that job.
After high school, I got worse. Married men, older men, men my age. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. And obviously I hadn’t found my soul mate since with all those partners and all that sex, I was only able to ring the bell by myself. Weird. after a lot of consideration, I figured it was because I was gay. besides, there had to be a better chance of having an orgasm when the other person had the same equipment (and presumably better knowledge of how that equipment worked.) So I started having sex with women. It was okay. It seemed to be good for them ( giving a nod to the possibility of Harry meeting Sally math. But on my end, no bells.
Then I met my husband. We were so young, but we were a good match. No bells there either, but for the firs time I told the truth about that. After a lot of work on both our parts (I had to learn to completely disassociate and pretend I was alone). there were some very bad times. I was unfaithful. He forgave me. I was lucky. Then we had a child, which gave me a reason for existing.
As an adult, I honestly thought I was normal – a hinkey past but overall normal. Maybe I was a bit more open and adventurous than the average woman, but that’s it. I masturbated and sometimes read dirty stories online. Nothing too weird about that. I looked at Internet porn occasionally but doesn’t everyone? I was completely faithful to my husband. My life wasn’t unmanageable.
Fast Forward 10 years
I was having problems with depression and decided to see a therapist. After a year I was much better, no longer depressed and gratefully said thank you at the conclusion of my treatment.
Fast Forward 10 more years
I had a psychological perfect storm. Amidst several big changes in my life, I converted to Catholicism. In that religion, masturbation is a mortal sin. This was such a non-issue in my life, I was totally shocked (and deeply embarrassed) to discover that I couldn’t stop masturbating. In fact, my sexuality seemed to explode. I was literally taking cold showers and begging my husband for sex. It freaked him out, to say the least. We had some laughs about how desperate I was for sex, but it was scary as hell. It’s just not typical that someone joins the Church and then their sex life becomes whacked.
In addition, to volunteer at the Church I had to attend a program about the sexual abuse of children. One of the things I refused to admit to my first therapist was that I’d been sexually abused, which turns out to be a pretty common reaction. After the class I had a complete hysterical meltdown. Clearly I needed help, but I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t end up with a therapist who would blame everything on my conversion. So I asked my pastor for a referral and started seeing another priest who was a therapist.
He quickly diagnosed me as a sex addict and I started going to meetings. But I couldn’t get sober. In fact, I was getting worse. See it turns out, we didn’t have a good therapeutic relationship. He had lied about the fee – there wasn’t supposed to be one – and over time our therapeutic relationship became increasingly unhealthy. Unlike my previous experience with therapy, I did not get better.
Fast Forward 1 Year
I attempted suicide and my husband insisted I see a medical doctor. I started taking an anti-depressant, which helped. I had a home group and a sponsor. I was doing my absolute best to give myself 100% to my recovery. But I wasn’t doing well. Neither were my children and my marriage looked just about over. My husband worried that he was the reason I was so unhappy.
Fast Forward Another Year
Finally my relationship with my priest-therapist became overtly sexual. It’s one thing to flirt and talk about fantasies and sex. We’d been doing that for a long time. Toward the end we were meeting 2 or 3 times a week and the sessions lasted several hours. We emailed each other. We talked on the phone. Eventually we crossed the line and started having phone sex. My life unraveled pretty quickly after that, which is pretty typical for women who have sex with their therapists. Thanks to my family, I landed in residential treatment before I was able to commit suicide.
I was a wreck. I’d been smoking for over a year and was up to nearly two packs a day. I was exhausted and looked like some middle aged goth wannabe – the priest and I were into some pretty dark stuff. Psychologically and emotionally I was thoroughly traumatized but I presented myself to the treatment staff as a destructive sexual predator and they took me at my word. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that I had a hard time trusting the therapists on staff but at the time, I looked like just another addict who was resisting therapy; a woman who preyed on men in positions of authority. Still, I was in a safe place where I was well cared for. Nobody abused me. Nobody lied to me. I got better. In fact, I got so much better that my husband was stunned when he came to visit me.
As you can imagine, untangling that mess was a nightmare. My husband and I had found each other again, and we both knew we loved each other dearly but I’d done a lot of damage to our relationship. We needed help. The treatment facility helped us find a good therapist and we went regularly. As my husband and I got better, so did the kids. When children aren’t doing well, they try very hard to be good enough to stave off disaster. Once they feel more secure, you’re going to get a whole lot of pent up anger. When I speak to addicts in treatment, I always point out that when your family starts getting healthier, the kids feel safe enough to be “bad.”
Today, I’m doing really well. It turns out that losing my faith has been a good thing. Although I sometimes miss the comfort of my faith, I’m glad to be living in truth. Our marriage is strong, and our family is doing well. I am still angry about what happened to me, and still amazed that I lived, but I don’t dwell on it.
Recovery & The Steps
What can I say? It’s confusing. The religious overtones in all the s-recovery groups bother me. I don’t like SA’s assertion that sober sex happens only in a heterosexual marriage. I absolutely believe that homosexual sex can be sober sex. Absolutely. On the other hand, I believe that setting goofy bottom lines is a real downside to the SLAA and SAA. And since going to meetings was a part of my abuse, it’s confusing. I have incredible gratitude for my group and my fellowship, but I wouldn’t have ever needed them if I’d gone to my current therapist instead of the priest.
I started this blog to help others. I’d be dead now if not for the the people who took time and energy to help me, some of whom I’ll never meet, like the person(s) who maintains the Metanoia website so it was there for me in the middle of some hellish nights. In a more selfish sense, paying it forward helps me reframe my story from a tragedy into a resource I can use to help others. It’s a redemptive healing, I think.
Plus, I was feeling lonely in recovery. Most people in 12-step groups aren’t atheists and many of them believe you can’t remain an atheist if you’re truly sober. The agnostic in the Big Book that eventually converted after reading a Gideon Bible in some hotel – that’s not me. I was a believer when I came into recovery and had a spiritual awakening to atheism. I’m glad to be an atheist! But after converting to atheism I discovered that most atheists abhor 12-step recovery groups. Like I said, it’s confusing.
But hopefully in all this confusion there’s something I can share for the greater good.