I still think I am heroic…
By Neil G., New York SCA
I came to SCA one month before my 30th birthday. I had never been to a
12-step meeting before. I had amyl nitrate (poppers) burns under my nose,
and I was still depleted from the MDA, cocaine, special K, marijuana, beer
and vodka I had consumed two days before. Drugs and alcohol are clearly a
part of my story. I used chemicals to help me to “lose my inhibitions”
(i.e., suppress my shame), and I was addicted to them. Escape into sex,
however, felt like the core of my compulsion, my confusion and my problems.
The meeting was at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center in the Village. I
had only been to The Center before to go to the Community Health Project
located there – for treatment of VD. Most of the gay community I met hung
around in the bars, baths, porno movie theaters and bookstores that I went
to looking for sex. The rest of my world, gay and lesbian included, I kept
“compartmentalized” (as our characteristics suggest) away from my life of
compulsive sex and drugs.
When I went to my first meeting I had just had my “bottom.” This bottom was
really no different than many of my forays into New York’s gay drug and sex
culture. I was working as a waiter at the time, which was not the career I
had chosen, and I had plenty of anger, resentment and shame that I was
“forced” to wait tables (no “worker among workers” for me). That night
after my shift my boyfriend met me at the restaurant for a going-away party
for one of the other waiters. I probably made up some lie, which perhaps I
half believed, in order to justify to my boyfriend and myself that we should
not go home together that night. Once he had left, I continued drinking,
started drugging, and parted from my restaurant friends (probably with
another lie – “I have to go home now and get some sleep”) and went to an
after-hours backroom gay bar.
There I purchased cocaine and went home with a guy I had acted out with
before. We did more drugs – including hallucinogens, which I hadn’t done
for a few years and had sworn I would never do again. I guess I really felt
a need to escape that night and a need to hurt myself. I didn’t tell the
guy I was with that I had a boyfriend. I remember some kind of romantic
intrigue at work with him – I think I let him and myself believe that we
would start a “hot” sexual relationship. Every time I would see how late it
was getting I would take more drugs and escape into more sex. I finally got
myself to go home around 6 or 7 in the evening – about 20 hours after my
boyfriend had left me at the restaurant. I don’t know how I managed to
navigate the streets and get a cab home, drugged as I was. By the time I
got home I had missed plans my boyfriend and I had to attend a wedding
shower for one of my close friends, and missed a show in which another of my
friends was performing. I returned home to a note from my boyfriend
expressing his great worry about me. Soon after, he came over to my
He saw me as I had so often been before – I was so high I felt as if my
eyeballs were spinning in their sockets. I had horrible poppers burns under
my nose. I was deep in the shame part of the cycle Patrick Carnes writes
about. I was a wreck. No one had ever seen me like that before; at least no
one I cared for.
I think what made this experience different from so many I had in the past
was that I saw myself this time – saw myself mirrored back in the eyes of
someone I loved. I had never let this happen before. I had set a strict
rule that I hide my acting-out from my boyfriend, and before I had a
boyfriend, I hadn’t had anyone close enough to me whom it would have
mattered to me if I saw myself mirrored in their eyes. I broke this rule
that night (just like I had broken my rule about hallucinogens) and the
result was I saw myself, and started to feel my pain.
My boyfriend said I had to do something about this. I said I would. I
looked up SCA in the phone book the next day and went to my first meeting
the day after that. That was over four years ago.
In the last four years I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, my
history and my world view, and I have changed and grown a lot. I have
learned that I am an addict, and, though I’m addicted to many things, sex is
one of my most powerful and insidious addictions.
I feel this is because my sexuality was very injured when I was a child. I
am and have always been gay, but I got the message very clearly that this
was not acceptable, that this was wrong and disgusting, and that therefore I
was wrong and disgusting. This became one of my faulty core beliefs.
Through a mechanism I don’t really understand, when feelings of being wrong
and disgusting became so overwhelming that I had to escape them, I escaped
into the very area that was most injured, often acting out sexual scenarios
that were humiliating to me.
I have also come to see that my honest sexual expression was so shameful to
me that the only way I could be sexual was to be so in a nearly unconscious
state, because when I was conscious and present my shame was paralyzing.
In SCA I have done a lot of work around healing this shame and learning that
I was not and am not wrong for being who I am sexually, but that the
messages I received were wrong. I have found that this is the way out of my
compulsive sexual behavior into incorporating sex into my life as a healthy
element. My goal is to accept and express my sexual energy.
When I was an active sex addict I used to call my acting-out forays
“odysseys.” I thought this sounded heroic (and certainly the creatures I
met were not unlike some of those written about by Homer). It has now been
a long time since I have had to go on one of these “odysseys.” I still
think I am heroic. I am very grateful, however, that now my heroism is not
about trying to escape from the ever-present and inescapable shaming voices
living in my head, but that today’s herosim is about sitting in a circle
with other recovering sex addicts and voicing and confronting the shame
head-on. I wasn’t capable of this before SCA, but, together with other men
and women in recovery, this is what I’m doing now.
Thank you for my recovery.