POSITIVE NEW BEHAVIORS
I remember when Bill Clinton was being impeached and people could not figure out why he would do such a stupid thing as to have sex with an intern and ruin everything he had worked for. It was then that I first heard the words “sex addict.” At the time I was in a relationship with a man who I thought was the love of my life. When we first got together we decided to be monogamous and I was completely in love. Then one day at the gym I had sex with a stranger in the steam room. It was at that point that I started hanging out in the wet area of the gym, and it was not long after that I was introduced to chat rooms online. This new thing called the internet kicked my sexual compulsion into high speed. My boyfriend and I had a little apartment, and I began hooking up with guys when he would go to work despite the high risk. Afterwards, I would feel such shame and guilt, and I swore I would never do it again. One day I went to the neighborhood book store and I was intriguing with a cute guy, and as I walked past him, I saw a sign with the words I had heard used about Bill Clinton, “Sex Addiction.” And in that section there was a book called “Don’t Call It Love” by Dr. Patrick Carnes. I bought the book and secretly read it on my way to work. As I read the stories, I knew I was a sex addict.
My addiction was out of control. I could not stop cheating. I created a huge fight with my boyfriend and broke up with him. I was heartbroken, but I knew of no other way because I did not want to hurt him. With him out of the picture, I started going to the bathhouse and hiring massage therapists. I would go to the gym on my lunch break to have sex in the steam room. One acting out partner was a doctor and I told him that I was a sex addict. He said he had a friend who worked with sex addicts and gave me his number. I saw this addiction therapist for a few months, and he did confirm that he thought I was a sex addict. He advised me not to go to SCA because “they just hook up there.” He also helped me identify that I had been sexualized as early as fourth grade by a neighborhood friend who had been molested by an older cousin. It was good to know these things about my addiction, but the behavior did not stop. The therapist asked me not to masturbate for a week, and I thought I was going to die. Even with a therapist who specialized in sex addiction, I could not stop.
It was around that time that I decided to move to another city. It was a fresh start, and I swore that I was going to change and I would never act out again. It is not lost on me that my massage therapist helped me drive halfway across the country to my new home. The first week after I arrived was amazing. I did not act out and I had no desire to. I had relief from acting out for the first time in years. I was staying at a friend’s apartment. After I finally got the internet hooked up to my computer, the acting out resumed with a vengeance. I was bringing strangers into my friend’s apartment and having unprotected sex with them in his bed.
I got my own apartment, a car and a job, so the acting out opportunities increased. I had changed cities for my writing career, but each time I would sit down to write, I would get drawn into the chat rooms, looking for my next hookup. My acting out had become a time killer.
My friend convinced me to join hundreds of bicyclists riding to fight AIDS. I began raising funds for the ride while the whole time I was having unprotected sex with prostitutes and massage therapists. I was living a double life. I pretended to be such an upstanding person by raising funds for AIDS-related causes and I was having unprotected sex. I could not stop. There was no PREP at that time. I was in constant fear that I would contract HIV, and I still could not stop. I would get tested every few months and pray to God, “If it comes back negative I won’t do it again.” The test would come back negative, and I would celebrate by having unprotected sex with a stranger, and the cycle continued.
On my 36th birthday, the same age as Marilyn Monroe when she died, I was doing the AIDS Ride and I was riding that morning with a friend. I had already hooked up with several guys on the ride and it was only day 3. I could not take it anymore and I broke down sobbing, telling my friend the whole story. He told me his husband went to a group called SCA and it might be good for me to talk to him. His husband and I rode together the rest of the afternoon and he introduced me to SCA. A few weeks later I went to my first meeting, and when I heard the 14 Characteristics read aloud, I knew I was home.
My first few months in program were great. I created a sexual recovery plan: “No unprotected sex. No paid sex.” It was so clear. And in the first few months it seemed to work. I wanted this so much I would do anything. I even went to an SCA retreat.
The night before the retreat I went out drinking and hooked up with a guy I met at a bar. He went into my bathroom and did crystal meth. He came into my bedroom and started simulating sex, but I was not involved, it was all in his imagination. It was like seeing a blind mole dig into the dark earth. I was so lost. When I got to the retreat, I broke down and told my story to the group. Again I had a reprieve. That is where I met my first sponsor. I was in the honeymoon phase of recovery. I started doing the Steps with my sponsor. At some point I didn’t call him when he wanted me to, and I missed a meeting we had scheduled, and he fired me. I had never been fired from anything in my life! I thought he was supposed to call me. How could he do this? Didn’t he know how hard this was for me?
Later that year, I went to an SCA convention, and at a workshop I heard a man speak. He had the kind of recovery and life that I wanted, and I got the courage to ask him to be my sponsor. I told him I was nervous and afraid he might fire me. He told me that he was not getting paid to sponsor me and therefore he could not fire me. The first thing he asked me to do was call him for 30 days. I missed a few days and he would ask why. Then he asked me to remove my computer from my home for 30 days. How could I? I needed it for work! Reluctantly, I did. I got my first little bit of sobriety. I got 30 days on my plan. But then around day 31, when the computer returned, I acted out. My sponsor had me install a device that blocked pornography and inappropriate websites. That stopped the hookups from the internet, but I started going to bars instead. My sponsor then told me that I might have a drinking problem. I could not believe he would say that. After all, I could stop for long periods of time and not even desire a drink! He asked me, “When you drink, does your life become unmanageable?” Well, I did always seem to act out sexually when I drank, and my life did become unmanageable. I was a sex addict and an alcoholic. It was as if I had been asleep in a bad dream and my sponsor woke me up.
I got about two years of sobriety at that time. I had a boyfriend and I did not cheat on him. Then we broke up. The problem was, I did not know what healthy sex was when I was single. When I was in a relationship it was simple, no sex outside my relationship. But what was healthy “single” sex like for me? Then I had to create my new “single” sexual recovery plan: “No paid sex. No unprotected sex. And I have to go on a coffee date with the person to get to know them a bit.” Sounded simple, but I could not stop losing my time. When I had a partner, I was more motivated because I did not want to hurt him. But when I was alone, I didn’t see how I was hurting myself. And I really didn’t care. At that time I allowed sensual massage on my plan as a part of having “single” sex.
I started drinking again because I still was not totally convinced I was an alcoholic. I mean several years went by and I never really had the craving to drink, not like I did for sex, so therefore I could not possibly be an alcoholic. It was in this period that I met the love of my life. We quickly became exclusive and within a few months moved in together. I changed my plan to, “No sex outside my relationship.” And it worked for a few months. Then I started getting sensual massages. I would hire a bad boy, tell him to be good and then try to seduce him. Cut to five years later. We had a work Christmas party at our house. I had been drinking and a new employee decided to stay later than the rest. My partner went to bed and the employee tried to seduce me. We engaged for a brief moment and then I told him I didn’t want this, that it felt wrong. At that point he said he wanted $30,000 or he would sue me. He was blackmailing me. I immediately called my sponsor and he told me exactly what to do; he got me a lawyer and had me file a police report. He had me go to 30 meetings in 30 days. I stopped drinking again and I had another 2 years of sobriety.
Then life happened and my mother died of cancer. While I was taking care of her I had the gift of sobriety, but a year after she died I started drinking again. The sensual massage started again, and for the first time I had a blackout from drinking while I was getting a massage. It was my bottom. I now have no doubt that I am an alcoholic and a sex addict. When I stop drinking, I stop acting out. As I write this I have 455 days of sobriety. I cannot drink. I cannot get a massage. I cannot have sex outside of my relationship. I cannot look at porn. That is what I have to do to stay sober.
I also have to replace that acting out behavior with positive new behaviors. I now have 4 sponsees and we have a Step study at my house every other Tuesday. I have a ritual every morning before I start my day: I meditate, do yoga stretches, read program literature and literature that helps me with my private religious practice, and I journal. If I do not meditate, I don’t have a great day. I have been the secretary of several meetings, worked on several convention committees and directed several of the SCA shows. I have served on several committees for the retreats. I have also started writing screenplays as a part of my sexual recovery plan. I have to attend a minimum of one meeting a week. If I dabble in my gray area, I have to attend a meeting within 24 hours.
I don’t know why it works, but I know that if I do the combination of things mentioned above and make outreach calls, it seems to work. I also know I am willing to do anything necessary to maintain my sobriety. The most important thing I have learned is never give up. Never give up. No matter how many times I have fallen, I go back to a meeting and I share my story. It is progress not perfection, and it is one day at a time.