Love One Another! 10/2008 → a testimony
As a young child I suffered from constant fear. I found comfort in fantasies of nudity and in so-called peeping. When they told me this was not allowed, I soon learned that I could achieve the same effect by looking at photos of undressed women that I found in magazines and art albums. When I learned in elementary school that this was a sin, I decided I would never commit another act of impurity. After that I was chaste for seven years.
My fascination with sex resurfaced when I was sixteen years old. First, one impurity popped into my head. Like a fishhook, it seemed to snag something inside me. True,
I instantly dismissed the thought, but a second later it returned. I made the same mental effort — with the same result. Impure thoughts came flying back, as if they were attached to my head by an elastic leash. The more vigorously I dismissed them, the more insistently they returned. I felt as if I was fighting off a swarm of flies.
For several months I endured this struggle, and all the time I died of fear and shame. I quite mistakenly took these temptations for a serious sin and, because I was so ashamed, I stopped going to monthly confession. I began to retreat into myself. Only years later did I realize that shame, self-blame, isolation, and absence from confession only served to strengthen this vice. After several months of fruitless struggle, I decided I could bear it no longer and I gave myself over to sexual fantasies. Before I knew it, I was spending many hours of continuous fantasizing. Not a single day passed without my going on such excursions.
Increasingly, I began to cut myself off from my parents and other family members. Worse still, I began to turn away from God. A great dishonesty (typical of addicts) began to assert itself in my life. Even though I prayed often (sometimes even very intensely) and begged God to take this scourge away from me, my actual choices confounded His efforts to help me. My acts of will invariably caused me to escape the effects of grace and to sink deeper into the addiction. (This dishonesty became clear to me only after I came out of active addiction over twenty years later)
Shortly afterwards, in the early 1980s, a high-school friend showed me samples of “hard-core” (at least by the standards of the day) pornography. This had an even greater effect on me than mere fantasy. I felt intoxicated, as if I had swallowed a glass of vodka. That single contact with pornography awoke in me an intense craving for more lewd content. I began actively seek out this material, always looking for a stronger “fix.”
The more I got involved with my peer group the further I went down the path of addictive pleasure. Before long I was going to drinking parties where I had several casual sexual experiences. But most of all I engaged in sexual fantasies and looked at pornography. Such was the state of affairs all through high school where my daily schedule consisted of plenty of addiction, hard study, little sleep, and very little else.
The bitter fruits of the sexual addiction that I fell into at the age of sixteen — remorse, shame, self-loathing, depression, and increasing feelings of inferiority — remained with me for the next 21 years. In my thoughts, I condemned myself to hell. I felt utterly alone and trapped. I cried and fell into depressions. I often asked myself, “What is happening to me? Not long ago I was living a chaste life.” Several times a day I would resolve to return to a life of purity, but then — often just a few hours later — I would return to my addiction. The longest I could stay chaste was a couple of weeks; after which I would again fall into ever-longer binges of porn use and masturbation.
On the rare occasions that I went to confession, the priests would advise me to receive the sacraments more often. But since I considered every temptation to be a serious sin, I avoided seeking the sacraments. I stubbornly refused to accept all assurances that temptation was not a sin. Nor would I listen to my confessors when they drew to my attention the obvious fact that I was a sexual being and that I ought therefore to accept my sexuality as a gift of God. I rejected their wisdom and continued to berate myself over every instance of sexual temptation — which only served to deepen my addiction.
After finishing high school in the mid-1990s, I went to college in a big city far from home. At first, I threw myself wholeheartedly into my studies, though I did not break with my addiction. After a few months I stopped going to church and I began to wage a private war with God. In my private talks with others I did my best to oppose the truths of the faith. I also broke off my relations with all my friends in my small town. I visited my family less and less often.
Soon I began to look for more graphic and explicit porn. But the resulting feelings of remorse, shame, fear, self-blame, and self-loathing prompted me to seek the services of a sexologist. It turned out that the specialist whom I consulted had no clue about sexual addiction and was unable to deal with my problem. After a while I stopped seeing him.
In my second year of college, oppressed by shame, fear, feelings of utter emptiness, and painful hangovers resulting from my increasing abuse of alcohol, I decided to consult another specialist. But this new sexologist told me there was nothing wrong with me. He recommended “minor behavioral modifications” in the form of an active sexual life. From then on, in addition to enjoying porn and fantasizing about it, I began to give serious thought to finding a sexual partner. But being a loner, I had difficulties in this area. Eventually I did find a partner — a fellow student. I took advantage of her sexually and emotionally. I was merciless. After a few months she went into a depression and withdrew from her studies. I do not know what happened to her.
I began to drink more heavily. Even before the end of the above-mentioned romance, I had begun to widen my network of girlfriends, but with one exception these friendships never went beyond flirting. That exception became the girl that I — addict that I was — would overdose on. And yet, at first, there was an element of good in my feeling for her. I wanted to change for the better, to focus less on myself, and to stabilize my life. I wanted to end my addiction, to marry, have children, and live a normal life. Alas! Both of us decided to have sex almost as soon as we met. As a result, all that was good within me began to die, and after a month or so I began to feel the return of my addiction. I tried to fight it off, but like the addict that I was, I began to flirt with other women, and this grieved my girlfriend terribly. Sensing that love was passing away and that the addiction was returning, I resorted to the “escape forward” method. I proposed to her. She accepted and a few months later we entered into the sacramental bond of marriage. I hoped marriage would heal me. Unfortunately, the deterioration of my psyche, emotions, and conscience was now far advanced. On the one hand, I expected the Lord would heal me through the graces of marriage; on the other, I blocked every channel by which these graces could flow. I said nothing to my wife about my addiction. It did not take long for the first signs of my inability to live a normal life to show themselves. For one thing, unknown to my wife, I began to buy more pornographic magazines (it was then 1989 and these materials were beginning to pour into Poland in a steady stream).
I felt trapped in a cage. Not only did married life not heal me, which I was passively counting on, but it also cut me off from the world of other women, for I still felt bound by my marriage vow. I vented my anger on my wife in various ways. In extreme cases, I would leave the house and go on porno-masturbation binges. Usually, this involved many hours of browsing through porn shops. On returning home, I would blame my poor wife for the whole incident. Of course, I did not tell her what I did during my absence. I even lied to her face.
Although I had always been a model student, I began to have problems concentrating on my studies. After graduating late from college, I was unable to decide on the future course of my life. In the end, I began a second field of studies, but quit half a year later. Instead, despite the lack of funds, I entered a doctoral program. I made only bad decisions. And all this time I continued to abuse my wife in countless ways, reducing her to the role of my private prostitute. I hurt her terribly during those years.
After two years of marriage, following one of my secret porno binges, I broke down and told my wife the whole truth about myself. After the initial shock, she expressed her willingness to work on our marriage, but under the direction of a professional psychologist. This I was only too happy to do, for I desperately wanted to free myself from my addition. I began to see a psychologist on a regular basis. I understood that, if the therapy was to be effective, there could be no talk of indulging in my sexual fantasies. Thus, I entered into my first extended period of abstinence from pornography, masturbation, and flirting. In short order, I was beset by powerful withdrawal symptoms: severe headaches, vomiting, insomnia, attacks of paralyzing fear and panic, and deep depression. All these symptoms I took to be transitional effects of the therapy, and my psychologist agreed.
Alas! The therapy proved useless. Once again my psychologist refused to consider my case as one of sex addiction. I could not understand why. Only years later did I find out that he was a sexoholic himself! After two years of this therapy, profiting from my wife’s brief absence from home, I returned to my addiction; only this time I deepened it with a new behavior. I rented a stack of pornographic videos and went on a fantasy binge. In this, Mr. Psychologist saw nothing abnormal. I stopped seeing him shortly afterwards.
For the next five years I visited still another psychologist. Throughout all this time he counseled me with exemplary patience (for a stiff fee, of course), while I slid deeper and deeper into my addictive behavior. Unbeknownst to my wife and the world, I increased my store of pornographic materials and went on steadily more frequent masturbation binges.
It was around this time that my wife became pregnant. In a minimally rational way I connected this event with the hope of freeing myself from my addiction. Having a child of our own would change everything. But, when I ran into a serious financial crisis shortly after the birth of our child, and the infant became chronically ill, I merely lapsed into the next phase of my addiction. I began to visit strip clubs. After transgressing this next barrier, I fell into despair.
After my financial crash, pornography and masturbation became a daily routine. Despite my attempts to keep all this in the deepest secrecy, my compromising habits became known to my wife, family, and friends. On learning this, I was filled with shame, but in time I grew immune it and began to ignore my wife’s pleas that I put an end to my disgusting habits. From then on my wife’s feelings for me began to die.
I extended my access to pornography through satellite TV. By now my fantasies were steadily evolving in the direction of violence. I began to flirt again with young women who could easily have been my daughters. I would “cure” my moral hangover by going on another fantasy binge. By the year 2000 my life had degenerated into one long, uninterrupted porno-masturbatory act. I was even dipping into homosexual porn.
The final years of my sexual addiction were a slow process of rotting. In my lucid moments, I could see the downward spiral my life was taking. Sometimes I would ask myself, “What lies ahead?” And immediately I would answer the question myself: further escalation of my addictive behavior, prostitutes, violence, loss of family, home, jail, hospital, and death. All I could see before me was my mania moving forward like a steamroller, and nothing could stop it. There was no hope. All was despair. There was no doubt as to the outcome. I would fall to the very bottom. One question remained: when would it happen? The year was 2003. I was 37 years old. Twenty-one years had passed since, as a sixteen-year-old, I had embarked on the road of sexual madness. In the grip of despair, I awaited the day when my madness would make me do something for which I could never forgive myself.
And so, awaiting my fate, I fell upon an article that provided me with the key to extricating myself from sexual morass. Reading it was like an awakening. It addressed my case exactly. I discovered that I suffered from a diagnosable disease, that I was addicted to sex, that I was a sexoholic. What’s more, there was a cure for people such as me — a program of recovery based on the pioneer achievements of the Alcoholics Anonymous Movement. I knew at once that this was the way for me. Hope returned, and this put me on the path of healing. I joined a Sexoholics Anonymous group. (To be continued.)