Warning: this section contains graphic descriptions of childhood emotional and sexual abuse; adulthood sexual aggression through verbal and emotional coercion, blackmail through threats of suicide, and sexual assault through the use of physical force; unidirectional and reciprocal abuse; depression; suicide attempts; prostitution; and language barriers between a patient and a psychiatrist and between a victim of intrusion and the local police contributing to a sexual assault.
The cage made it difficult and uncomfortable to engage in sex, but it certainly didn’t make it impossible. This had given me some food for thought. If I knew that I could have sex with someone however uncomfortably with the cage on, then what was keeping me from doing so? The answer lay in a simple mind game: I imagined that I couldn’t circumvent it and exercised whatever self-control I could muster to play along with it. That’s when it dawned on me that I still had some self-control left and that a simple mind trick could keep me from acting out even as I spiralled into an emotional darkness. The realization that it was my own will power and not the device and the apps that kept me from acting out depressed me even more as it made me feel even guiltier and even more hypocritical.
Though I’d felt depressed for many years, I hadn’t thought of suicide in a few years either: why was I thinking of it now? I started to feel the urge to buy a bolt cutter for the padlock, get the password for the apps, remove the apps, and return to the old life. I wasn’t happy there, but at least I wasn’t suicidal either. It had allowed me to numb my emotions and live in a fantasy world.
I decided then that I was not going to turn back. I’d made the decision to feel, however painful it might be to do so, rather than go back to numbing the pain.
I then started to wonder if talking to a therapist or other sex addicts at a twelve-step group could be more useful than I previously thought, not so much to help me stop my behaviour (since I’d essentially already done that now) but more to help me manage my returning emotions after so many years of numbness. That’s when I started to see a therapist. Due to his fees being beyond my budget, I then turned to Sex Addicts Anonymous.
At first, I felt uncomfortable with the first step: “We admitted we were powerless over addictive sexual behaviour – that our lives had become unmanageable.” I misunderstood it as trying to excuse my behaviour. Another member of the group was kind enough to help me through it.
That’s where I learned that while different devices and apps combined with some self-control could prevent me from acting out at least in the short term, listening to others’ experiences and talking about mine could help me work through the emotions of what they referred to as withdrawal.
Hearing recovered sex addicts talk to me about their experiences with recovery had helped me tremendously. While the emotional pain of depression was unbearable, I kept hearing others tell me how it was normal, that they too had gone through the same pain sometimes for months after quitting, and that happiness did return over time. With that, I decided to stay strong and weather the storm.
That the meetings were unisex helped me too. Though I’d never read any claim to the contrary, I just presumed for some reason that women couldn’t develop sex addiction (in spite of my experiences with my babysitter, my ex-wife, and the woman who’d sexually assaulted me) and so was uncomfortably surprised to see women at my first meeting. Hearing the stories of the women who attended the meetings helped to burst any illusion that I hadn’t been inflicting pain on the women I’d paid for sex. It reminded me of the relationship with my ex-wife when we were both having sex with neither of us really wanting it. It made me think about how by buying sex, I was not only hurting myself but the woman too by making it more difficult for her to leave the trade.
I used to give large tips in an attempt to assuage my guilt. One participant at a meeting described how the money could be addictive in its own right and so made it even more difficult for her to leave the trade. Strangely though, the kindness of the group members assuaged my feelings of guilt at least a bit while still making me feel more determined than ever to stay strong.
I couldn’t understand why, but the more I blamed myself, the more I felt like returning to the trade; and the more I forgave myself, the easier it became to resist the compulsion. Other members of the group had described similar experiences. Had I known that many years ago, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself and, ironically, might have been able to leave the trade sooner. In case he existed, I prayed to God often even at the height of my behaviour to forgive me as I forgive my debtors. I would recite the Lord’s Prayer as I wondered whether its words might carry some power. It suddenly dawned on me at one meeting that there was one debtor of mine that I’d never forgiven: me. I’m still learning how to forgive myself.
Expecting to probably be infected with an STI, I visited a clinic and asked to be checked for all STI’s about four months after my last sexual encounter. I’d not gotten checked before because I didn’t feel that it was worthwhile if I was only going to expose myself yet again. To my happy surprise, all of the tests turned out negative. I’d taken another complete set of STI tests about a year later just to be sure. I’m happy for the undeserved negative result.
I soon became friends with one member of my twelve-step group outside of the group and she invited me to a strictly dry Christian group. Though I much appreciated the safety of a diverse group that prized chastity not only in sex but in drinking, drugs, and gambling too, it didn’t give me the openness that the twelve-step group gave me; so I now participate in both groups with each giving me a part of the social interaction that I need to remain sober in my life.
I only wish that I’d learned about sex addiction, its causes, and its remedies long before I finally did learn about them. Even after years as a participant, I never even saw the term (probably because I’d not read much celebrity news before then), let alone learn any healthier coping skills to deal with it. In some respects, I’d come full circle. Ironically, the progression of my addiction into masochism is what led me to learn about sex addiction and its various remedies; and learning about its remedies is what finally led me out of the industry and into the beginning stages of healing. I know that I still have much to learn, especially with regard to learning how to defend my boundaries, to trust a person outside of an organized group, and to forgive myself; but at least I feel that I’m advancing however slowly, and I’m thankful for that.