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March 6, 2012

A Happy Beginning - Personal Recovery Story

As far as I know I am the third generation to become entrapped in sexual addiction. We know that my father was abused as a child and in turn abused his children. The physical mental and sexual abuse was rampant. The abuse was introduced at such a young age that it was a way of life. I was introduced to sex by my brother and sister at the age of 4 or 5. After they got older and got friends of their own the abuse stopped but the curiosity and images had already taken hold of me. The crude talk and jokes by my father only added to the curiosity. I was about 6 when I was introduced to magazines by a boy down the street. We live in a rural setting and there was an old abandoned out building between our homes where he kept them. My memory of my childhood is spotty and lacks chronological order. My curiosity grew as I discovered masturbation. At the age of 10 my father was removed from the home. But the abuse did not stop. It actually got worse for me.

After everything had come out, I tried to tell my mother what had happened to me. She called me a liar and told me that I had made it up. After everything that my father was accused of, I was the liar? When I insisted I was not lying she relented and said that it was not as bad as what my brothers and sisters had gone through. Treu, but it was clear that I had no one I could talk to. I did not trust the counselors and because I had been a victim my whole life, lying to them and telling them I was fine was the only control I had in my life. This was difficult because I was an honest person. It was odd for me to lie and I was not good at it. The counselors finally gave up on me and I stopped going back. This isolation contributed to feeding my addiction to masturbation which was full blown by the time I was 11, acting out 2-3 times a day.
I have found that people who perpetrate or have suffered abuse, knowingly or unknowingly, find each other. After my father was removed, we move a few more times. At each of these locations there were older women who befriended my mother and then me. A few of them made passes at me some to the point of exposing themselves to me. It got to the point that if a woman smiled at me I thought she wanted to have sex with me. My view on the world of relationships was warped and dysfunctional but was reinforced over and over. This fed my fantasy and the addiction to masturbation.
Strangely, this is also the time I began to develop a profound testimony of the church. I came to know that it was true. This would be my saving grace through high school. Because of my feelings of the church I never let any of the interactions with those women go any further, though I desperately wanted to. This would be a blessing that I could not realize till after a year in the program. For 15 years I was angry for “missed opportunities”. Thank God for “missed opportunities”.
It was during my teen years that I noticed my testimony strengthen. I do not know if it is this way for everyone but as I look back, my addiction grew as intense as did my faith and testimony. As long as I did not bring anyone else into my sexuality I was fine, so I told myself. This was not a lie I told myself to keep acting out, I truly believed this; this was a way of life for me that never got corrected. I never thought of masturbation as wrong. And the fantasies were in my head and not a problem.
I was a good looking young man and well mannered. People liked me but I never felt good enough. I never felt like I belonged, I was somehow different. I was always uncomfortable around families that seemed to have it together. I was afraid of everything. My father ruled by physical abuse. I was always afraid to do something wrong. Actually I was afraid to do anything. My father was so paranoid that if I was 5 minutes late getting home he would beat me while asking where I was. When I told him the bus was late, he called me a liar and would beat me until I made up a story that would justify him beating me. This taught me to lie quickly and well. My mother was very critical about others and everything. I inherited this attribute and understand it now as a dysfunctional way to cope.
 As you can expect we were poor. My mother worked two jobs and still could not provide. Because she suffered from depression and guilt, she would rarely go to church. She would send me to the Bishop with a list of financial needs and I would wait in the hall for the envelope of checks. I grew to resent this. I grew to resent everything about my life and family.
This mixture of resentment and shame made it for a very lonely childhood. I met my wife in 9th grade. She was nice but taller than I was then and that made us friends. About the time I became a junior I had a growth spurt and grew in athletics. This helped me mask my low self-esteem with arrogance and cockiness. I ran into the young woman from 9th grade again and we hit it off. We began dating. I began to feel something I never felt before. I felt love and compassion, as I knew them then. I was drawn to her. She returned the feelings. I wanted to make her happy. I began to feel like I could do better than what my family was. I planned to go on a mission but our affection for each other and my well developed addiction soon made that impossible. After talking with her bishop we decided to get married. A little over 9 months later our first son was born.  I loved that boy, I wanted him to never taste what I lived through. My wife loved being a mother so we had 7 more.
Times were not easy, I was a hard man. The more responsibility to “provide/acquired” the harder I became. I had no real education or skills to speak of. I had to work two jobs and still had a hard time making ends meet. This attacked my ego and pride and drove my sexual addiction. My wife could not keep up, though she desperately tried. Soon I had to turn to my fantasies to quell the beast. But the fantasies only fed it and made its appetite grow. There were times that my wife had to take on a paper route to help. This attacked my self confidence and fanned the addiction. I would become angry with her, she would be 6 months pregnant and going on 3-4 hours of sleep and raising our other children alone while I was gone. I would feel so guilty and that too would fan the addiction. My anger and rage were growing. I was spiraling out of control, always so angry and helpless. I began to see it in my children’s eyes; they would look at me like I looked at my dad. I would always convince myself it was not as bad as what my dad did, and in the normal world I was a 3 on a scale of 1-10 worst dad scales, while my father would have pulled a 9. But I knew that a 1 or a 10 did not matter, I had made it on the scale. This also drove my anger, depression and sadness.
In 1998 I took a job with a local beverage delivery company. As a young man I was introduced to pornography but never had enough access to it to make it stick. But that would change. I had a route that took me to corner stores, liquor stores and so on. I found myself giving into the curiosity. I was hooked. These places had everything. I was sickened and charged at the same time. This went on for about a year. I would stand and look for hours a day. I never purchased anything; I was too much of a coward for that. But I took in all the free filth I could. I soon promoted and took another route where the pornography was not as prevalent. That helped but my masturbation was now compensating for the lack of visual stimulation. My relationship with my wife became one of convenience. I was a horrible husband despite what I told myself.
After a few years I was able to get through school and gained employment in my field of choice. That brought some relief for a while. I began to feel a sense of worth and happiness. But with all festering wounds the new ointment did not get at the root of the problem and as my personality began to manifest both in my work life and home life my old friends, depression, anger, rage, resentment, came knocking.
I promoted quickly and was given many projects to handle. I did this well, all the time looking for approval and validation. These two attributes are fickle friends in the business world. They are here today and gone tomorrow. I was soon introduced to their bookie, “what have you done for me lately”. No matter how good I was, it was never good enough tomorrow. I filled my days with making a name for myself; work had become my mistress, and in turn I ignored my family. The sad part is, I found that my family liked, preferred, me gone. My family did not want me and my mistress was never satisfied.
I knew that I was no good for them. So I started projects like large play areas in the back yard to try to win their respect and love. As you would expect, the admiration only lasted till my dark side would emerge. So, I had resolved that this is who I was. I tried being nice and it felt so fake. I did not truly care for anyone as an individual.  I could not connect on a personal level. I did not even hide my addiction from my wife any longer. I would only lie about it to avoid a fight. It was apparent on my family’s face that they despised me. So I resolved to be the financer of the “family” unit and that was all.
At my new job the guys I worked with had pornography in their lockers and cubbies. They would talk about it. Over time my curiosity got the better of me and I began to look through their personal effect to find it. I violated sacred trust and went through their belongings to feed my addiction. Pornography developed a hold on me greater than masturbation ever did. I would begin shaking if I knew it was somewhere I could get it. If I did not have access to it I could hold out, but if it was available I would jones like a drug addict.
In time I began to promote again in my new career. My new position required quite a bit of time on the computer. This access helped feed the addition. I knew my work monitored all computer access but I did not care. I would begin to sweat and shake thinking about looking. It did not matter what it was as long as it was sexual. When I would turn it off I would feel nauseated and want to throw up. I would feel horrible, both physically and emotionally. This went on for a year. We did not have the internet at home but I would supplement at home with 3 in the morning viewing of fuzzy/blocked cable channels before work.
One day my department’s director called me in. I was to be terminated. I was devastated. Some people fought for my job so I was only to be demoted. Again they fought for me and I ended up with a 5 day suspension.
I could not hide this from my wife, she would know I was home and short 5 days of pay. She was heartbroken. She took a ride and came back 3 hours later with an appointment for me, her and us together with the Bishop. He was incredible. It felt so good to have it off my chest and in the open. She was incredible and I lasted about a month.
The suspension was a slap on the wrist. The guys at work thought it was ridiculous I got in trouble in the first place and they got me enough overtime to make up for the loss pay and then some. I could not view it at work without get me fire. But my kids were an age that they needed the internet for school. My wife refused to have the internet in the home, and for good reason. But she relented for the kids. I would make her sorry for the decision.
I began viewing at home. I was out of control. My anger and rage was increasing and pornography was quickly losing its ability to satisfy the beast. The nest 2 years of My life and appetite spiraled out of control. I will pick up with the day that I decided I could no longer make my wife and children pay for my addiction. I was making my wife crazy and my children feared and hated me.
On August 23, 2009 my wife confronted me. I lied to her and she immediately convinced herself she was crazy and apologized. I was overwhelmed with guilt and I could not let her go on like this. I could not let her think her divine inspirations as a wife were crazy voices in her head. I confessed to my wife and then my Bishop. It took about 48 hours to get it all out. She was an amazing example of a daughter of God. We separated the next day. I spent the next night in my car waiting for my apartment to get electricity. It was a windy night and I was able to stay in the apartment at about 1 in the morning with the windows open. The next morning I looked in the mirror and was shocked to see what was staring back. It was more demon than man. The image was dark, scary; it did not look human. I can only explain that it looked like what was left after something evil had had its way with it and had no more use of it.
The next two weeks were ones of Hell. I have never begged to my heavenly father like that before. I finally knew what Alma the younger had felt in those three days. It was also the first time I ever received an immediate answer to a prayer. I was washed over with a warm loving feeling. And I received an answer to my prayer.  The Bishop was loving and sincerely concerned. He put me in touch with a counselor from LDS Family Services. He was very good and suggested I go to a PASG Meeting. I went to my first PASG Meeting on September 10, 2009. I thought I would walk into a meeting with a bunch of weirdo’s and trench coats. When I walked in, I was surprised to see men that looked like I might see around the office or as a next door neighbor. The spirit was the most powerful I had ever felt in my life. I wanted more of it.
On September 12 I met with the disciplinary counsel. It was a spiritual meeting. I was excommunicated. Surprisingly enough I was relieved, not saddened. I knew my history, if I had been dis-fellowshipped, I would have taken it as another slap on the wrist. Also, I had spent most of my “mature” life wishing to be re-baptized. It felt like such a relief. As time has passed, I now see that it was an unbelievable act of mercy from my savior. As I worked through recovery and healing, I did not have the added pressure of the priesthood mantel, and since I was not under covenant I was not piling up consequences as I began to learn right from wrong.
On September 18, I met my sponsor. As he began to speak in group an audible voice in my head said “that one, he is the one that will sponsor you”. This relationship was as divinely inspired as the one between my wife and me. I shared with this man things, I never thought I would ever vocalize. He never flinched; he took it all in and gave amazing feedback. His foundation in the gospel and the 12 step program was amazing. He embodied what I needed in a sponsor. The next three months were filled with meetings, study, reading and thousands of prayers.
As I took to heart the lessons from the 12 step and read what my sponsor asked me to, I began to see a new person in the mirror. There began to be light and life in the image that would stair back at me in the mirror. As I began to change my wife and family would make comments that I looked different. My wife and I began to spend hours talking till 3 in the morning.
During the next 6 weeks I spent hours working steps 1 through 4 and putting them into practice. I was still fighting the cravings. It was what I have come to understand a period of abstinence; drying out if you will. As with all abstinence, it ends in one of two ways, relapse or sobriety.
My first go at abstinence ended in relapse. I was shocked; I could not believe it happened. I was a man who acted out 2-3 times a day and was able to put nearly 10 weeks together.  I called my sponsor and laid it all out. I wanted to see if my K9 internet “nanny” was working. That was the lie I told myself to be able to look “accidentally” feed my craving. I had told myself that lie over and over and I fell for it again. What I will son figure out is that I did not fall for anything, I chose to act out. I am not a dumb man. Quite the contrary, I have a fairly high IQ and have been complimented many times on my ability to grasp and understand concepts. That is what the Big Book calls the insanity of the addiction. My sponsor called it out immediately and said he feared that I was only abstaining and not achieving sobriety because of the slow progress I was making with step 4 and 5.
The next day, I was to spend the day with my wife. I broke the news to her. She was disappointed and visibly hurt. After 10 week of not acting out, my mind had begun to clear and I was seeing myself for who I was, or had been. To see my wife like that crushed me.
Step 4 was painful, and step 5 was terrifying. It took me a week to do step 4 and a month to work up the courage to do step 5. With any addiction, if you are in it long enough you can become someone you swore you would never become and do things that you only thought devils were capable of. I had become a monster, someone that terrified me when I looked in the mirror. Spilling that out on paper and then reading it to another person was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I have to hand it to my sponsor, he gave me an ultimatum, get step 5 done or find another sponsor. I asked him several times if he knew what he was getting into. Again, I was his first sponsee. He was convinced he could, he had made a commitment in step 12 and grounded in the atonement. We met at my apartment and I began. It went for about and hours and a half. He never flinched. When it was done, we had a prayer and he lined out step 6 for me. It was one of the most spiritual and liberating moments of my life.
As I continued to work my steps, I came to know that my concept of sobriety had been all wrong. I was convinced that if I could just stop acting out I would be better, a good person. Step 6-9 helped me see that I was a jerk with an addiction and was becoming a jerk with a period of abstinence. In order to gain sobriety I had to allow the Lord to heal and correct all of my character flaws that were the feeding ground for my addictions. Yes, addictions.
Over the next 3 months I worked hard on my flaws. My family would make comment like, you seem different, happy. You smile a lot, you use to never smile. Those compliments felt good and were a strong reminder and clue as to what I was. I am careful to use the word what and not who. When I was wrapped up in the addiction I stopped being a “who” and the “what” was terrifying.
On January 1, 2011 I moved back home. It was a huge adjustment. The chaos of a large family became a distraction from my recovery. Over time the Lord has helped me balance it. There have been some recovery (growing) pains. I am rebuilding my relationship with my wife and children and will spend the rest of my life doing so. The relationships are sweet and rewarding. I have been truly blessed by the Lord. I am learning that they are my spiritual betters, they have been saved for these last days.
I have 460 days of sobriety. I have lived 2 life times in my life, 1 of addiction, one of recovery and I am starting my 3rd in sobriety. I have learned so much in my recovery. I love being a sponsor. I have sponsored 9 men and believe it to be the highest calling I will ever have. I owe my life to the Lord and am eternally grateful for a wife and children who continue to teach me daily. I am also eternally grateful for my sponsor and the men I meet with every week. I cannot over emphasize the importance of involving your Bishop and Stake President in your repentance and recovery. Mine have made all the difference in the world