The Sex addict is not created in a bubble. The men and women who suffer from this illness were not raised in a cocoon, but they were raised in the shadow of shame, guilt, neglect, silence and the power of a secret. We here at No More Secrets do not have the ability to take “bad people” and make them good but rather we try to take ill people and make them well. We will leave the making good part to a higher power, but I do tell folks that if they do want a higher level of self-esteem they have to do two things. First they have to stop the addictive behavior and secondly they have to start doing esteem able acts. Simple to say, difficult to do for people with a life time of dysfunction.
As you read this one woman’s story and you think of her as a 13 year old and then as an 18 year old married and pregnant young woman, try to imagine what happens to her at 28, 38, and 48. Could this kind of trauma ever leave someone unscathed? Did this young woman ever really stand a chance at a good life? Now in her late 40’s she is trying to recalibrate the trajectory of the rest of her life. She is so brave and determined to finally right the wrong that had been done to her. With the help of the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) fellowship, her strong connection to a women’s group, her therapist, her sponsor, her step work, her willing to take direction and her work with me as her recovery coach she is healing. And most of all she is not leaving before her own miracle.
(not her real name)
Homework from Jay:
Write about how the hand in the room impacted my life. Especially my feelings around men, fear, arousal, confusion, and betrayal.
The following was written over a series of three days.
It is July 1982. I am 18 years old. Six months pregnant. Married to M. Living with my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law 3,000 miles away from my family and support system. M and I have snuck out of the apartment and are in an adult book store. I feel awkward and exposed in the front of the store. M takes me back to this room where we put a quarter in a machine and a movie plays. The only light comes from the movie and we are kissing, messing around. M is taking my clothes off so we can have sex. Suddenly I see this hand coming towards me and feel it touch my leg. I look to my right and this guy is looking at me through the hole in the wall. The hole is low and large enough he can get his hand and head through it. I think he could climb through the hole into our room. I scream and jump away. I climb onto M’s lap and am sobbing. M is trying to comfort me telling me that it is OK. He just wants a feel and he won’t hurt me. I won’t be calmed down and I am sobbing and being loud and M finally says we can leave. This experience has a major impact on my life. To this day it remains the most terrifying event I have lived through. It impacted my feelings of safety. It impacted my sex life in what I would do or would not do. I was much more open to lessor sexual violations that were not as terrifying. I took the attitude of it could be worse so I went along with whatever was asked of me.
So, I am in the room and the hand is coming towards me and I scream and climb onto M, looking for him to protect me. Another scene in my life. I am 13 years old, standing in the doorway between the dining room and the living room telling my parents that my older brother was violating me and I am looking for them to protect me. In both cases the message I got was this is normal and I was making a big deal about nothing. This impacted how I felt about my body. I did not own it and it was not valuable. How I felt about men. They could have whatever they wanted. Do whatever they wanted and it was acceptable and OK. The rules were only for me, for girls. Boys could make their own rules. How I felt about arousal. I was supposed to feel it but never did. I would control what my body felt so I almost never felt arousal. When I was drinking I would lose that control but drinking made my body numb so even though I might be aroused I was also numb. What did I feel about fear? This event caused pure terror and had a huge impact on my life. The messages I received were that there was nothing to be afraid of. My fear was discounted. It was not real, not important. I was making a big deal about nothing. My feelings were not valid. It was not OK to be afraid. To be afraid was to be weak, vulnerable, and men would take advantage of me if I was afraid.
I am in the room. It is dark and I am thinking I am safe with M in this private place. Suddenly this hand is reaching for me and I scream. I am looking to M to protect me. Instead I am told that my feelings are not valid. That I am making a big deal of nothing. I am confused about the reality and this is just another example of my feelings not being valid. The fact that my feelings were never validated caused me to suppress them and try to match what other people were feeling for the next 30 years. Messing around with M, I had all kind of conflicting emotions and thoughts. There was the guilt for sneaking out of the apartment and fear of being caught. There was the discomfort of being in the shop. The elation of getting away with it and doing something that my brother would be allowed to do, but was not allowable for me to do. The feeling of creating my own equality. There was the excitement of being bad and aroused at the same time. And in the end, there was the pure terror and realization that I was not safe. There was also the feeling that I was making a big deal about nothing and that I missed the opportunity to have a good time with these two guys. When I think about the episode I wonder with if I had accepted the touch what would have happened. It is not like my body hadn’t been touched before. What was the big deal? When I get out of my head, my body is holding on to that terror and my eyes are filling with tears of compassion for the 18 year old girl who got lost in other people’s want and desires while she was needless and “wantless” herself.
After she reads this to me we both are emotionally spent. I ask her where she feeling the pain, she points to her yes and her gut. I tell her to breath deep. I tell her I am honored by her courage and willingness to share this pain, shame and secret with me. I tell her to visualize leaving all that crap here in my office, buried deep in the carpet. I tell her that the “bill” has finally been paid as I take her back to the first three promises from the AA Big Book: “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace”.
It does take a village to save and addict. If this resonates in you and you think you can use a village, give me a call. As I always say, misery is optional.