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Ages 40 and up / The Evolution of A Secret
« on: July 18, 2014, 03:41:37 PM »
I have a deep dark secret. It is a secret that brought me an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt.  But I am however very good at keeping secrets. My job and profession depends on it.  You see I am a psychotherapist…a marriage and family therapist to be exact. Confidentially is the hallmark of the profession.  In addition to my profession as therapist, I am also a clergy person.  And these are only two of the many reasons the secret has been so deep and dark. 
The truth is I know better.  I know what it looks like when I see it in others.  I know that keeping it a secret only perpetuates the problem. It makes the illness either get worse or just fester under the surface. It can potentially damage all the true and significant relationships I have. It can injure not only myself but do some terrible emotional harm to those people that mean the most to me.
Oh you would never know or even imagine that this secret exists.  I am respected in my community. People trust me with their own secrets and emotions.  They look to me for spiritual guidance and hold me up as an example to be followed.  The façade is a great one… The secret is, I am addicted to porn. But now that the secret is out, I have the resolve and commitment to truly and finally do what I need to do to end this insanity.
My story is probably not too uncommon. It all probably started at about age 12 or 13 when I went on a hunting trip with my dad.  We stayed in this old tobacco barn converted to a cabin or “hunting lodge”.  It was the quintessential man cave complete with stuffed deer heads, guns, ammo, whiskey and a whole stack of Playboy and Penthouse magazines (circa 1970’s). It was the perfect goldmine for a boy just coming into puberty.  I remember sometime that weekend I had the opportunity to be in that little cabin by myself and being drawn to that stack of magazines like a moth to a flame.  It was just glorious… I could feel the blood rushing to my head and the instant erection.  But at that age, and in my innocent way, I did not know about masturbation yet.  That would come some years later.
Later in my teens I seemed to gravitate towards those “dirty magazines” that seemed to be readily available either from neighborhood friends or finding someone else’s stash.  One time I and another friend found an old dryer someone had dumped.  Jackpot!! It was full of magazines and the golden ticket… Hustler magazines. The rush I felt was indescribable. But those feelings I kept hidden.
Then around age 16, right after I started driving, a friend and I ventured to a drive-in theater that showed adult films after 11:00 at night.  I will never forget that first sex scene and how I was just in awe that I could actually see this right on the silver screen.  The dopamine rush was incredible. Again, I kept those feelings hidden and our activity secret.
Fortunately at that time, there was no internet and going to porn movies was something you had to be sneaky about.  You never would want anyone know you were doing such things, especially the parents, the folks at church or your girlfriends. It was just something you did with your buddies or by yourself (if you got lucky enough to brave going by yourself; that way you could jerk off while watching the movie).
None of the magazines or movies seemed to affect sexual performance in those days.  I guess it was all spaced far enough apart and there were real relationships to focus on. Plus I had youth on my side and a very healthy libido. My first sexual experiences(with an actually woman) were probably pretty normal.  There was heavy petting with a girlfriend in high school.  My first intercourse was with my first wife and we had a pretty “normal” sexual relationship, but in retrospect, I can see now it was not a healthy one.  You see it was about the time I got married that VHS came out and boom! Welcome to porn movies in the privacy of your own home! Besides that, the video rental place I went to had a whole adult section with too many to choose from. So I would find those times when I could sneak and rent a movie. This was the perfect storm for my addiction. It was also during this time that I began to venture into strip clubs with some of the guys from work.  But the strip clubs were not private or secret. Porn was better. It was private. It was a secret.
In looking back, I can see now how that whole phase in my life (late 1980’s) and the introduction of readily available porn lead me to years of porn use and ultimately into the black hole of addiction I developed.  The ability to keep it secret and the ready availability kept it going strong.  Even when I would get caught or vow to myself and my wife that I would never do it again, I would always gravitate back to its use.  I can say now, it really was pornography that was the catalyst for ending my first marriage.  Of course it was more complicated than that, but I did let my addiction to sex rule and wreak havoc on that relationship.
When I moved to the city I live in now in the early 90’s I began dating again and would seek out relationships that were potentially sexual. That was until I met my wife.  She was in many ways different. I guess I knew intrinsically I was searching for something more.  And to put it in religious terms, God was leading me in a different direction.
Shortly before we got married, my wife confronted me about some porn magazines I had kept.  I also had small stash of VHS movies I kept.  I got rid of them and made a promise to not watch or look at that stuff again. During that same time the internet was just starting to explode.  Of course in those days the internet was mainly used for email, static websites and downloading music.  When I did relapse and seek out porn, all you could find in those days were static pictures.  Which was probably a good thing; they just didn’t give the dopamine rush of movies. I don’t really know how to measure if I was truly addicted at that point, but I did manage to stay away from looking at porn images for several years.
Then in the early 2000’s this wonderful thing called high speed internet came into being.  Still, I managed to stay away from the porn just because the opportunity to look at it was not there.  I didn’t have a much time by myself and I was now a parent and wanted to definitely keep that secret from my daughter.  Not only that, but I was then in the process of discerning a call to ministry. 
The crazy part about all this is I was able to create for myself a compartmentalized mentality and rationalization about the porn.  Yes, I knew it was not a good idea to look at it and I knew it was potentially damaging and “sinful”.  And because I was so good at keeping it a secret and because the rest of my life was so “normal” and even successful, I kept it in the shadows and hidden from literally everyone around me.
Sometime around 2005 or so, I began traveling some in my job with the mental health agency I was working for at the time.  Well that is when the addiction took off full force.  Getting a hotel room with free high speed internet was just the ticket to feed this thing festering under the surface.  I would spend hours upon hours in clicking from one streaming video to another.  I even got so brash as to download a few, but that did not provide enough novelty.  So I would waste hours in the evenings, staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning, surfing and streaming porn.  I would go the next day into work and be exhausted, then drive the 5 hour trip home. Still, no one knew.  It was a secret.
It was also during this time that I was becoming less and less interested in my wife sexually. She was picking up on this and was questioning my lack of being able to get an erection and my avoidance of normal affection and sex. She thought it was her.  And the thing I regret the most is for her to think there was something wrong with her all these years. There were several times throughout those days when she would become furious with me.  She wanted and craved the closeness of making love.  But I was not able to perform. I would blame it on my blood pressure medication or make the excuse that I was just getting older. I did ask my doctor for some Viagra which he gave me. But I would rarely if ever use it.  I had no interest in a normal, healthy, sexual relationship with my wife.  My libido was gone and my desire for human contact was null. The drug of porn had taken over.  And I had let it happen…
We would have sex sporadically, but the times in between would get longer and longer.  We would go months, then years without any sexual contact. What my wife didn’t know was it had nothing to do with her, although I know for sure she thought it was.  The thought of having normal sex terrified me.  I had gotten to the place that I could only seem to get an erection with the use of porn.  And even those erections were not full erections.  I would ejaculate quickly and then have these sinking feelings of guilt and shame that I would quickly suppress or compartmentalize. I had developed a full fledge case of porn induced erectile dysfunction.
My porn “habit” became pretty consistent. When given the time and the opportunity, I would carefully get online, hide my history, and go to the site that always produced free clear porn of any variety I could think or imagine.  It is true with this disease it requires more and more variety to keep the dopamine engine running.  I noticed that at times I would even go look at the sites without even masturbating.  I just wanted the dopamine rush.  I would get my “fix” and then go on about my day.  It became almost a routine and common as brushing my teeth.  It became just something I did.  And despite what I knew, both in my head and especially in my heart the damage it was doing, I kept it up.
Then I did something crazy and at the same time almost paradoxical.  I started a support group for men struggling with sex addiction in my therapy practice.  I had several clients that were battling the very thing I was dealing with within myself.  Their stories were the same as mine. I knew I needed to somehow address this, but kept putting it off and making excuses.  I had vowed to myself though that I was going to somehow stop doing this without my wife ever knowing the enormity of my problem. I wanted to get rid of this thing but still keep it a secret.
Then one day in June not long after our daughter had graduated from high school my secret got exposed.  I knew that something was going to have to change before too long.  Life was just starting to change for me and my wife.  We were moving into that empty nest phase of life.  It meant that our focus would have to be on each other rather than our child. I would have to deal with this hidden chasm in our relationship.  She was being kept from this deep dark secret. Then on that evening in June we were going to look at a DVD of my daughter’s band performances.  The DVD player in the den would not work right.  I said let’s just go and look at it on the computer upstairs.  I had forgotten, or maybe it was simply a cry for help, to put away the lotion I had used to masturbate to porn that morning. It was still on the desk next to the computer.  She said, “What’s that doing there?”  I lied or half-way tried to and said, “I don’t remember”.  She knew, she knew by the look on my face and my whole demeanor.  She left the room and went to bed.  I sat there stunned and felt almost borderline suicidal.  I felt like my life was over.  The overwhelming sense of shame, guilt and self-loathing hit me like sacks of concrete.
I went to bed and surprisingly she did not sleep somewhere else that night.  The next day we both went to work as usual.  Nothing said the next morning.  I got an email from her that day saying that she wanted to pay off all of our joint debt and for us to finish the work we had been doing on our house. I thought, okay this is the end of our marriage.  That evening I knew I had to tell her the whole truth.  And this time it had to be something that was more than just empty words of “okay I won’t do it again”.  I had to have real change this time. She was so hurt, so angry and disappointed that whatever she handed me at that point I fully felt I deserved.   But I needed to change not because of her.  I needed to change because of us.  I had lived with the pain of this secret too long.
The next day I found a certified sex addiction therapist and made an appointment.  I called my bishop and gave him the news.  It was a heart wrenching and at the same liberating conversation. Thankfully, I am on the way to recovery.  My wife and I have a lot to work through together. And she, at least at this point, is willing to stick with me through this.
That is my secret… that is my journey.  I am hopeful and thankful that I am on my way to health and sobriety.  It is as if the lights are coming on again.  The air seems fresher and life is coming back into focus.  Thanks be to God for pushing me to recovery…

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