Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It's been a life-changing few months. I often want to post about the trees, but I don't think they'll make sense without the forest – so here it goes...

>>>New Therapist
When I woke my parents up and told them I was using in their home, I think the seriousness of my addictions really sank in. We talked the next day about what to do next. First came the difficult acknowledgement that I am, first and foremost, a sex addict. Chemicals are just icing on my porn cake. At this point, they happen to be willing and financially able to help, so we looked into inpatient sex addiction clinics. When we saw how much they cost, paying for a therapist who is specifically trained in sex addiction didn't look so bad, so that's where we started. After some research, I really clicked with a guy in Carlsbad, which is about an hour from my home. We jumped right into Patrick Carnes material, and I knew I was in the right place. So far it's been excruciatingly painful at times, and probably more helpful than anything else I've done.

>>>Marital Separation
I stayed with my parents until the middle of September and went home a couple of weeks before I wrapped things up at the church. The time away from my wife was amazingly helpful. Being there of my own initiative (instead of being “kicked out”) allowed me to grow instead of sulk. I don't think I ever realized how codependent I am with my wife. Even with the lost job and being separated from my family, I felt positive most of the time. Somewhere along the line, I had learned that I wasn't allowed to be happy unless Linsey was happy, which frankly isn't very often. This has been a huge change.

>>>Job Loss
What a complicated, confusing mess. Sometimes in life you have to look a list of truths and let them sit, side by side, even if they seem to conflict with each other. Here are a few of them:
-My (former) pastor (and boss) had encouraged me to ask for more help if I needed it. When I did, he fired me.
-My using had not really affected my job (in any tangible way) but at a church, it seriously affected my integrity.
-Many church members (who knew the whole story, without edits) were crazy mad that I was fired and were ready to fight the decision.
-Whether or not the pastor made the right decision is not what matters. That I lost my job to my addiction is what matters. Let me say it again, in the interest of thoroughly hitting bottom: I lost my job to my addiction.
-My wife told church members not to fight the pastor – that it was time for us to move on and that I needed to feel a consequence. She was right.
-I have been increasingly unhappy with the pastor's leadership decisions in the last few years. He's made some seriously destructive mistakes, become more and more dictatorial, and is showing significant signs of memory loss. He is unwilling to retire. That's not sour grapes, it's just what is.
-I've been in conversation with a few potential employers, but was too afraid of change to leave my position. If I'd been healthier, I would have left years ago. Instead I chose to do it the stupid way.
-Leaving my position in that church has been one of the best things that's ever happened to me and my family.
-Getting fired from my position in that church has been one of the most painful and difficult things that's ever happened to me and my family.

Two weeks at Kaiser's Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Program. Very helpful – lots of good tools and connections. Good use of time in my first two weeks of being unemployed. As the name implies, it's a chemical dependency program, not a sex addiction clinic. But it's all good.

>>>Grief and Divorce Recovery
My aunt happens to run an amazing Grief and Divorce Recovery group. You don't have to be going through a divorce to attend, just grieving something. She told me I would be grieving the loss of my church, and that I should attend. Honestly, I think I've been grieving the healthy church I used to work at for the last three or four years. What I have never dealt with, however, is the gut-wrenching pain in my marriage. I carry debilitating anger and resentment for the first twelve years of our marriage, during which Linsey repeatedly explained to me that we didn't need outside help because there were no problems to work on. I've committed to doing whatever uncomfortable “grief work” this workshop tells me to do – drawing pictures, writing “unsent” letters, and other such things.

And letting go of old marriage-hurts is the right thing to do at this point. Because it's not about Linsey right now, or my marriage, or my career, or anything else. It's about me, a recovering sex addict. And I have hope right now. It feels nice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Here We Go...

I've hit bottom.

It's 2:15 AM and I'm high. I'm at my parents' house because Linsey and I can't live together after my relapses. I lost my job at the church (more about that later) and I might lose my family.

What I need to do is go and wake up my parents, and tell them that I've been using in their home. Isn't that totally addict behavior? I pack my black bag full of all the stuff I need to live and work, and move in with my parents, because Linsey and I are in a bad place, relationship-wise. I go to meetings and get newcomer chips and hugs, then go to CVS and steal three bottles of my drug and smuggle it back to my room at Mom and Dad's Place.

And I'm looking at the insane addict behavior and I'm realizing:
Here I am, justifying the drugs and porn, laying in a bed at my parents' house. My parents - who gave me a place to live when Linsey couldn't take it anymore. I've brought the addiction right along with me, thinking I could stop it when I moved back home.

A friend in recovery IM'd me the other day. She said that she'd be in trouble when her "hunney" got home. She had relapsed, and was in that coming-down-and-feeling-guilty place. In her inebriated state she typed, "Why does it have such a hold on us?"

Friday, July 29, 2011

Asking for Help

I'm starting over again. I know there are people out there who think I shouldn't be blogging about recovery when I've relapsed so many times, and if you've been following me for a while, you know I don't blow off anybody's advice. So I've taken some time to think about what I'm doing here, and here's what bobs to the surface: I'm healthier when I'm blogging. There's something about putting thoughts “out there”, as opposed to ranting in my password-protected journal, that helps me. So I'm going to keep doing it. I don't think I make any claims that I've got it all figured out.

On the other hand, I'm struggling a little with the conversation-like nature of blogging. What I was actually thinking about when I started this blog, in my typical grandiose manner, was writing a book. Now I know the world doesn't really need another drugalog – I can swap war stories with other addicts after meetings. So when I began posting three years ago, I was mainly looking for a workshop-like setting where I could practice writing. I quickly found out that blogging, at best, is a conversation. At times I considered disabling comments, and approaching the whole thing like a magazine column. (I could be the next Mary Roach and write witty columns for Reader's Digest!) Eventually I figured out what blogging was, and found the comments to be helpful – if not for getting sober, at least for not feeling alone. My struggle is that I often hesitate to post at all when I remember that by saying anything, I'm inviting feedback. But that brings me back to what I said earlier. Something happens when I post here. Something good.

My biggest obstacle to posting is that I don't want to share until I've got a success story. That was part of the allure of the book idea: Struggle, struggle, struggle, then fix it, document it, and share it. But recovery doesn't work that way. It's in the agonizing moment of vulnerability that healing happens. In that place where I've come to the end of myself and have to ask for help. When I don't ask for help because I'm supposed to, but because I must. So I wanted to post today before I do something scary. I need to tell my pastor (and boss) that I was under the influence yesterday while in my office, which I've never done before. I had alcohol hidden in my filing drawer. At worst I'll be out of a job, at best I'll set up a new level of accountability with him, which is something I've needed to do for a long time anyway. Tonight at my meeting I can finally connect my pastor with my sponsor. I'll post later about the outcome. I just know that I can't get better until I ask for, and accept, the help I need.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I'm stranded in a parking lot in Anaheim, in front of a Spanish language health care clinic. I can smell Little Ceasars pizza, and there's a woman singing opera in the apartment next to me. She sounds like Snow White when she sings to the birds. I ran out of gas so Linsey's bringing me the gas can. Oops.

I am grateful for:

-My (mostly) sweet pre-teen daughter Ashley, who's braces-filled smile lights up my day. And that she still IM's me “I love u” on Facebook.

-That James still begs me to play light-saber fights with him.

-That Linsey and I filled Valentine's Day with love and patience, not hurt and alcohol.

-That every night I have chihuahuas nestled up against my head and my ankles.

-That I got to sing and play the piano for a living this morning. And I'm thankful for the song “Our God.”

-I have pink eye. I'm not grateful for that(!), but I'm thankful it's getting better. Man, it itches.

-For thirty days of sanity.

-That people I've never met bother to read my site and leave comments that have helped me through some awful times.

-For my rabbit Max, who's dug a cave system under my patio. Now that the rain has stopped, he's sunning himself outside my window.

-That I have bro's I can call – like my cousin who came and helped me patch my tire this week. For some reason that flat tire had me feeling helpless and depressed, but I didn't have to deal with it alone.

-For parents who live down the street and will loan me $ to buy antibiotic eye-drops when my bank account's totally empty.

-I'm grateful for Entenmann's donuts. I just am.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Five Finger Discount

I had to ask the Starbucks girl for chocolate-covered graham crackers – they were behind the counter. She said an “old lady” steals them so the staff hide them. Ooh, that hurts. Did they talk about me that way? Back when I stole their CDs?

Starbucks was one of the main stops in Eli's little theft ring back in my kleptomaniac days. What do they expect? They display all their merchandise out in the open and the employees are frantically distracted making drinks. If you don't frequent Starbucks (first of all, why?) they feature about four CDs at a time in a little display in front of the register. These change throughout the year. I think there's a section of my massive CD collection that's almost exclusively Starbucks CDs, and not one of them was paid for. Probably a couple of year's worth.

I didn't steal like a drug-addict, to fund my habit. I stole for the thrill of it. CDs and DVDs, electronics, office supplies, jewelry, music equipment, sex toys, and of course, that cornerstone of my addictive behaviors, over-the-counter cough syrup. I guess in a sense, I did steal to fund my drug habit. I was just lucky enough (?) to be able to steal my actual drug. None of this stealing-and-hawking that Linsey's older brother had to do. (When she was a teenager, nothing my wife hid was safe. Her brother hawked all of her jewelry for PCP.)

A guy in my SAA group told me he had been a shoplifter as well, and he understood. He understood what happens in my brain when I steal. He said that studies had shown it was similar to a heroin rush, on a smaller scale. I don't know what “studies” he was referring to, I just know that I kept going back for more.

I kept track. I had a spreadsheet that summed the total estimated value of what I had stolen. When it reached $5,000 I stopped recording it. I stole from family and friends, schools, libraries, mom-and-pop joints, corporate giants, and every drug-store I could find. I delighted in getting around preventative measures. Cameras and alarm systems were just a challenge.

I don't know how I will make amends for all of this. I'm not trying to figure that out just yet. I'm just trying to root out the buried memories of all those offenses and make my fourth step as accurate as possible. I'm guessing I'll have to wade through some combination of written apologies and financial retributions. I don't know how I'll pay for these - it gives me a stomach ache.

A counselor once told me that stealing-as-an-addiction betrays buried anger. It does. I felt the world owed me. Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous asks “How much would you have to steal to finally feel satisfied or to make life fair?” Like any other addiction, there's never enough. Never.

So if you work in a Southern California drug store, and you've ever found three empty cough syrup boxes and the empty packaging for a Durex vibrating cock ring stashed behind the dog food, I'm sorry. Shame isn't a strong enough word. I was trying to get away from real life, to my “bubble”, pleasantly high and having sex with a computer. And I didn't want to leave a purchase trail that my wife could find.

I just need to make sure this habit stays in the past.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I was a pallbearer at my Grandmother's funeral this weekend. The director had to chase me down to attach my boutineer, because I was also involved in audio, video and music. There are many details in putting together any church service, and I usually have my fingers in most of them. It keeps me busy and slightly panicky, which is a state I apparently like.

There were last minute additions to the slide show and CDs coming in left and right. Funerals are always like this at the church – favorite songs to play, postlude music, videos of memories – always showing up in the sound booth ten minutes before the service. Being occupied kept my emotions at bay until I was supposed to sing my solo. This was helpful. I got through the song okay. I also led congregational music of Grandma's favorite songs.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take him at his word
Just to rest upon his promise
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord”

It seems like a funeral director would be really proficient at pinning on boutineers, but oh well. The thing had a pin that was sticking out a millimeter away from my jugular. Eventually it drew blood, which I guess was okay because I had on a red shirt. It hurt.

It hurt to watch my grandfather, in his unerring dignity, caress his wife's face one last time. It hurt to watch my mother and my aunt, and to try and imagine their loss. But mostly it just hurt to have a part of me missing, and to know it would never come back. It didn't feel like grief, or saying goodbye to a person. It felt like moving, packing up and leaving the house you grew up in, leaving behind a neighborhood full of friends. When you move you know you're heading for a new place, where you'll make new memories. But you just ache and ache for the memories you leave behind, and the rooms into which you can never again walk. That's what it felt like, as we drove to the graveside, with blood on my shirt.

We sang there under a tarp. Grandma's other favorite hymn.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

The director hurriedly removed each or our boutineers, six carnations from six grandsons. We were maybe standing a foot away from each other, in utter silence, and yet he felt the need to mechanically repeat “please hold the flower and I will instruct you when to set it on the coffin” six identical times. A little reminder of the dehumanizing machinery of the “death industry.” The six of us walked past the casket, six of her grandkids all grown up to be men, and placed our flowers on top as a last goodbye. There was something profound and beautiful in that silent moment. Something dignified and holy, a reminder of the all we held in our hearts and all we would leave behind there buried in the grass.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chips off the Old Blocks

Familiar Scenario:

-Linsey tries to convince James to do [thing]

-James (the 8-year-old) resists

-Linsey pushes back

-James improvises, comes up with yet another way to avoid compliance

-Linsey tries various parenting methods she's read about in books

-James displays stunning array of varied manipulative techniques, exhausting Linsey's will

-Linsey gives up in exhaustion and does [thing] herself

-Eli smiles

You didn't expect the last one did you? But just substitute my name for Linsey's, and imagine I'm asking Linsey to do something, and you'll have the other most familiar scenario in our house. My wife is dazzlingly tenacious. I rarely proceed past step #3 above because, why bother? She will win. Oh yes, she will win. So when I get to see her in my spot, fighting that losing battle, some sort of evil happiness wells up inside.

Now just to be fair, here's another familiar scenerio:

-Astonishingly loud and high-pitched loony singing emanates from the car's back seat

-Linsey reaches tolerance level, begs Ashley (the 11-year-old) to stop

-Ashley says okay

-Blessed silence

-Ashley begins again to make noises that no sane person could imitate, laughs maniacally

-Repeat cycle several times

-Linsey sighs in defeat

-Eli smiles

You see, while James inherited Linsey's tenacity (read: stubbornness), Ashley inherited my bipolar personality. You did know I'm bipolar, right? Maybe not...I mostly show the depressive side on my blog. When I'm manic, I'm too busy annoying people and bouncing off the ceiling to sit down and post. Anyway, I like that both of these situations end with me smiling. It pleases me that our house contains two little opposite-sex clones of me and Linsey. There is much joy in being a parent.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Staying Afloat

Kind of felt like throwing in the towel for the last few days. First off, let's get it out of the way - I used last week. Wife and kids were out of town for the day, and I had a "bright idea." Same old stuff - porn and DXM. An hour into the fog, I shut it down. Reemembered this isn't me anymore, I'm sick of feeling like a loser, and for the first time in years, I have dreams. Things that I care about and hope for. I should have blogged about the good stuff before the bad stuff happened, but oh well.

I'm encouraged that I made it more than four months - that's the longest in a while - but feel ashamed and stupid enough that my mind goes to dark places. I've been in dialogue with my psychiatrist and therapist for the past few months about how persistent my thoughts of suicide are. Having to face a relapse fires these up into a frenzy. I won't do it though, because I have kids. It's just discouraging to have it nagging at my brain all the time.

The other option that presents itself is to go out. For good. To just stop trying, get high all the time, live in the porn-bubble, and hide it well enough to fool someone into taking me in. Of course that wouldn't work, duh - but that doesn't stop my addict from bringing it up over and over. Bastard.

So when I land back on earth and realize that I need to keep trying, keep growing, asking for help, listening to others' wisdom, working a program, just basically doing what I'm supposed to do, I've felt kind of blah. It's interesting - usually after a relapse, I feel inspired and freed, ready to get back on the wagon and make something of my life.

This time is different, I think because I called and asked for help instead of getting caught. It's like my addict is sulking in the corner, resenting me because he could have slipped in a few more highs before the crash. I cheated him of that. Even worse, I gave him a taste of paradise instead of asking for help before I used. Now he remembers what it's like - still has the sound of ecstasy echoing in his ears.

I remember an addiction specialist telling me that for many chemical addicts a sexual addiction is hiding as the primary addiction. I'm understanding more and more that I'm that person. I don't start a relapse by craving the chemical high. I start it by slowly moving from perusing fashion sites to stockpiling porn images, and when that's not enough I augment the rush with chemicals.

I love the biblical story of the manna. The Israelites received just enough to sate their appetites, no more, no less. If they tried to save for later, it spoiled. There was no guarantee for tomorrow's food besides faith.
So like I said earlier, I have found myself ready to let this blog go. Ready to either abandon it or delete it. Recovery in real life is a mix of rewards and challenges, and I wasn't sure the ratio here was worth it - more challenges than rewards.

But some manna fell for me recently, in the form of a couple of comments. Patricia Singleton, from Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker, wrote, "Things can get better when and if you both want them too. [My husband's] patience and our combined love for each other has gotten us through the worst of times." How comforting to hear the wisdom of someone who has walked the difficult path of healing from the wounds of incest, and who continues to grow in her marriage. Sometimes I just need to know it's possible - that my efforts to stay sober and her efforts to heal are worth the pain.

And Invisigal wrote, "Your posts have been a great help not only to me but to several SA men that I know. One of those men came to the realization of his addiction after reading your blog when I sent him the link." And that pretty much says it all right there. That makes it all worth it.