I’m a recovering sex addict. In my personal recovery journey, I have been in individual therapy, group therapy and 12-Step fellowships. I’ve worked through the 12-Steps twice, so far.. I have journaled and written a great deal during this time, mostly for my benefit, but also for others who suffer like I have.
When asked to contribute to this blog, the first idea that came to mind was about being a “good” addict. I’ve heard it in various forms, and when shared in group settings, I’ve seen so much agreement, nods of recognition and on occasion, laughter. At the height of my addiction, I was a “good” addict, meaning that I was good at fulfilling the desires of my addiction. Hmm, even reading this back to myself, it’s hard to comprehend. So let’s add some details.
I was at times a highly effective individual living two very distinct lives. There was my public persona -the hard-working employee, family man, husband and friend. This is who most people saw and interacted with on a day-to-day basis. Yet I had a second job on the go, a secret identity if you will, that revolved around my addiction. Pieces of that life wove seamlessly into my Clark Kent persona shown to the world, but many of those activities were carried out in private, unbeknownst to even those closest to me.
My secret identity was fuelled by my addiction, which had decades to ingrain itself into my life. I had become very good at keeping it a secret, at planning my activities, and carrying them out incognito. I knew how to get the time and space I needed to feed my desires. I developed rituals that could take me to the heights of my ecstasy in very limited time frames. For all intents and purposes, I was not just a good sex addict, I was a professional. I admit, I had a certain amount of pride in my abilities.
The demands of my addiction, the ever-revolving, insatiable desires, drove my focus to be singularly targeted on the satisfaction and fulfillment of those needs. I was, for a time, a highly functioning addict. I believe now that my addiction demanded so much of my energy and attention that I had little choice but to become proficient at it. I’ve read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything, like with a musical instrument or a particular sport. I am certain I surpassed that level of effort many times over during my decades in active addiction.
So why am I talking about being a “good” addict anyway? How can I use the word pride in the same sentence as an illness that has had disastrous consequences in my life and that of countless others? I guess the main reason is, this is part of the process of understanding our disease. Having been a “good addict” is a sign that we truly were enslaved by this force, even though at the time we would have sworn we were completely in control. This is just one of the ways that addiction is truly cunning, powerful and baffling.
There is another aspect: Some of those skills and abilities that I developed and honed to support my addiction can also be strengths in my recovery. The ability to focus and concentrate on a single task, the ability to manage multiple projects, good time management, dealing with people – these have a place in supporting my journey to healing. It is not the skills themselves which were the problem, but the reason that they were employed. During my active addiction they were used for self-serving and destructive purposes, but now I can rely on them to help me achieve goals that are aligned with the better person I am becoming.
I wish I could continue this post and let you know that somewhere during that period of performance akin to a star athlete training for the Olympics, I came to my senses, saw the error of my ways, and did something to correct my course. However, that was not the case, and why should it have been? As far as I was concerned, in my narrow view of the world, everything was going perfectly. There was no reason to change, until there was. But that story needs its own space for the telling.
Until next time,