What Am I Really Doing?
I once heard in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where I was attending as a support to a client, that alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful. I’ve heard the same thing in other twelve-step groups I’ve attended. I am certain that the same could be said of sexual addiction.
Looking way back to the days when my sexual addiction was in full force, as a young adolescent, all of my efforts to avoid sexual behavior were frustrated by what to me was an inexplicable power my urges and desires had. They were powerful enough to overcome all of my internally-held moral objects to the things I was doing.
The urges and attractions were far more cunning and powerful than my constant white-knuckling to avoid the behaviors. It was baffling that no matter how much I prayed and promised, strained and strove, or punished and pushed myself to abstain, I always fell again.
I couldn’t really understand it. I was trying as best as I knew how to stay out of situations where I might find trouble. Even when I did good things related to the males in my life, some of those things resulted in sexually acting out.
Weren’t my motives pure? Wasn’t I being a good Christian by doing some favor for a guy, or inviting him to do something with me, like a hike in the woods? I wasn’t trying to find an opportunity to seduce him. Why did it often end up that way?
For example, I once built a fort in the woods out of old logs. It was really cool, a real attraction for some of my friends in the neighborhood. There were horizontal gaps in the wall going up each side, the size of the circumference of the logs. I figured out how to stack them to make two rooms, a cool idea. It was when I got some plywood to create wind-proof walls for one of the two rooms. Wind-proof was a good idea. Yet, while I was putting them up, I knew inside that I was also trying to make them eye-proof. It became the ideal place for a young sex addict trying to seduce his friends.
As I’ve related before, my career as a fully active gay teenager came to an abrupt end through a prayer experience when I turned 16. It was a prayer like no other prayer I had ever prayed or have ever prayed since. So much changed about me in one long evening on my knees.
One thing that changed was that my heart was convicted about all of my self-dishonesty. I knew after that experience that when I was trying to make a friend with a peer, that all of the things I told myself I was doing in the name of being a good friend had a subliminal message in my own head of what steps I needed to take to lure him into experiences that were beyond friendship. In short, I had at least two motives behind everything I was doing.
As life and the pursuit of eternal life always is, you get one problem solved and another presents itself. There’s always something that needs improved or eliminated. I turned from sexual addiction to relationship addiction. I employed all of the old tricks, only now my motive was not sexual seduction, but emotional possession. I became obsessed with certain men and found myself doing whatever I could to get them to be powerfully and exclusively committed to me as a friend.
Emotional dependency is when you feel like you must have the attention of a certain person in order to feel right inside. It seems like you thrive on every moment when you are with them and dead when you are not. Instead of being addicted to sex, I became addicted to one man at a time.
Like any addiction, the “drug of choice” is cunning, baffling, and powerful. The thing about an addiction to a person is that it isn’t the person himself that is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It is the emotional investment you put into him that is cunning, baffling, and powerful.
I began my new journey of dealing with this new form of addiction. When it was new to me, I didn’t even see it as an addiction. I saw it as a need, much like I saw sex as a need and alcoholics see alcohol as a need.
Not only did I tell myself I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I also was lying to myself again about every little motive. For example, with one man I would go walking ostensibly for exercise. Yet, despite plenty of directions in my neighborhood where I could go walking, I always managed to walk past his house. This happened at all sorts of times of the day, even at 2:00AM.
It’s true that I lost a lot of weight, probably got down to my lowest adult weight. Physically, I felt great. Emotionally I was a wreck.
So much of that pain could have been avoided if I had been completely honest with myself about my motives. When I started to see that I was headed for disaster, I knew it was time to start treating my relationship addiction like I had successfully dealt with my youthful sexual addiction.
I had to get back to that conviction God gave me that I was not honest with myself about all of my motives. I began questioning them, literally asking myself why I was planning to do everything I did. I dug deep. It didn’t accept the answer I would give myself that was only the positive part of my plans. I recognized and admitted to myself when I was doing something for the purpose of having a chance to draw some man into an unhealthy emotional attachment with me.
Dissociation is the label given to the condition where a person can psychically focus away from reality into an altered state. It is usually related to trauma and is the basis for such conditions as Dissociative Identity Disorder, formely known as Multiple Personaility Disorder.
With this, and other methods, including professional counseling, I was able to reach a point where I could have healthy relationships with men that had all of the proper boundaries and barriers. It has been nice to enjoy a friendship without feeling engulfed by it.
Through counseling, I dealt with the traumas of my past that created in me the dissociative condition. As a boy, being beaten and molested over the course of many years, I developed the skill of focusing my attention away from what was happening to me. I could tell myself a story in my head that left the other me to endure the trauma outside of my consciousness. It was somewhat like picking flowers while just beyond your awareness some small boy was being beaten by an older male. You feel bad for that boy, but you don’t want to get involved.
That produces in the survivor of that abuse the propensity of being really good a lying to yourself, even telling yourself that what you are doing is all wonderful and noble. It’s the same thing that I used to act surprised when I found out that I had acted out in some way. (See Surprise.)
One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is that my adult relationship addiction was really just a slower acting sexual addiction. It became clear to me at one point that the only result of a conquest in my quest for an emotionally-dependent relationship was sex. That meant that the quest for such a friendship was ultimately a quest for a sex partner. It also meant that my relationship addiction was just another form of dissociation, a cover story for my still active, but not acted upon, sexual addiction.
A life of complete fidelity in its broader sense requires honesty with our spouses, honesty in our relationships, and integrity with ourselves. Integrity with ourselves requires us to ask ourselves the hard questions. As much effort as that takes, it also has great rewards. The process of questioning my motives has helped me get to know myself, and I’ve discovered along the way that I’m someone worth knowing.