Saturday, August 11, 2012

Scared of the Dark

There's that swirling cognitive dissonance that happens in the mind of an addict. It's a kind of cascade where one disturbing thought triggers another, and you think you see patterns. Maybe those thoughts are real, meaningful and meant to be explored; maybe they're bullshit - the kind of epiphanies you think you're having when really you're just... high. Or insane. Like when John Nash sees secret codes embedded in magazines in A Beautiful Mind. That movie feels eerily like home.

I love Dexter, the TV show, with its serial-killer-as-addict metaphor, so I've been reading Dexter, the novel, to see where it all started. (Surprisingly, the book's far more disturbing than what Showtime allows on my TV screen.) In an uncharacteristically spontaneous killing, Dexter executes a serial killer who's abducted, sexually abused, and murdered four "light-haired" junior high girls. Children. And I start thinking that if I were a serial killer mine would be dark-haired, because my fetish is for Latinas.

What the hell?

I read Tim Allen's first book years ago (awesome title: Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man) and all I remember are his recollections of prison. He posits that men are essentially monsters - that without women around, men descend into a level of barbarism that none of us is comfortable acknowledging.

Junior high girls have been swimming in my pool and running through my house for days. I remember when American Beauty came out and I wondered if that would be me: a "sedated" father in a miserable marriage who ends up lusting after his daughter's friend. I sure had the stifled-rage-husband thing licked. But I figured I wouldn't notice Ashley's friends until she was in high school.

I was wrong. I'm sorry if that bothers you. I'm not a pedophile, but I've known a few and they need grace just like the rest of us. (And also they need to stay away from kids and schools, forever. That's just common sense.) But regardless of our society's rules, once a kid hits puberty, he/she is sexually viable. Not emotionally ready, or mature enough, but all the equipment's there, and it's hard to miss it when it's bouncing around your living room in a bikini.

When I was using and acting out, I read porn novels because they were easier to hide than picture porn. I stumbled into stories about incest, abduction, BDSM and "non-consensual sex." Anything to get more of a thrill than last time. That's how addiction works.

My addict (Dexter's "Dark Passenger") sees no lines between the man and the monster. What terrifies me more is that he sees no lines between fantasy and reality. Am I a monster? If I took it all away - women (like Tim Allen's prison), social mores, law enforcement, faith, recovery - what would I be? What acts am I capable of?

I'm working on a character reference letter for someone I worked with this past year. This person had sex with a high-schooler that I know. How does one end up in that place?

How does one not end up in that place? It just doesn't seem all that far away. Sadistic sexuality, suppressed monsters, vulnerable teens, forbidden affairs... all swirling together in that dark place where my addict lives. And I peer into that darkness and I think I'm seeing me.

But I'm the one here in the light, and I've been here for almost a year. It's okay to be scared of the dark.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So. Much. Better.

Picture Linsey took last night

The innocence I lost on my honeymoon had more to do with naïvety than virginity.

I was probably 17 when my family was walking to Ralphs – which is strange because we never took walks – and my dad said “If you have sex with Linsey before marriage I'll disown you.” It was a joke, a clumsy attempt at a man-to-man talk, but ominous all the same. I guess I listened. Linsey and I did what good Christian teens do: listened for footsteps in the hall while we danced on the edge of the genital sex chasm. You know...everything but.

Those years are a blur of youth group meetings about staying pure, books about God's plan for sex, giant teen conferences with famous speakers – all saying the same thing: If you wait, it'll be so much better. And I really have to give them some credit. It wasn't “if you give in to lust, you're a sinner.” I mean, yeah, that message was there, but the emphasis was always on the promises of God's plan for sex. If you can just wait for marriage, it will be so much better.

Josh McDowell...Tony Campolo...Jim Burns...James Dobson...Charlie Shedd...
All the same, all the time: If you just wait for marriage, if you follow God's plan, sex will be

Always the intoxicating slippery slope, the guilt, the swearing to change. But we held the line 'til the honeymoon, which was kind of a nightmare, and it was pretty much downhill from there. Worse before it got better. The gurus never talked about that.

They never talked about incest survivors (which is strange, because it seems like most marriages have one.) They didn't talk about sexual aversion or sexual self-loathing. Sometimes I think: maybe they didn't really have the tools. No one really talked about sex addiction back then either. We've come a long way. But then...they lived in the real world didn't they? They had to struggle in their marriages too, right? Why didn't they give some indication that everyone, at some point along the way, needs help?

Everyone needs help. If there's one thing I'm trying to teach my kids, it's this truth. We're all broken. Along the way, we all get lost sometimes. Practice the words. Say them: “I'm hurting, I'm confused, I need some help.” No one makes it on their own.

Outside my window is Morro rock. The sunsets over the ocean have been breathtaking. We've had beaches all to ourselves and eaten fresh peaches from the farmer's market. But I ache inside. This is where we honeymooned, where I lost my innocence. No one told me what it might be like.

If you follow “God's plan”, there's no guarantee things will be good. It just doesn't work that way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Last Surrender

Pictured: Not me
Every time I try to post about Sexual Anorexia I end up running. There's heartbreak there, shame and denial - but more than anything else - there's fear. A terror I've never felt before, about anything, ever.

This year I said goodbye to many things - hopefully for the last time. Surrendering drugs and porn meant saying goodbye to ecstasy. More recently, surrendering cookie binges and nicotine meant saying goodbye to comfort. As I begin to surrender my sexual anorexia, it's less "goodbye" and more "hello" - to everything I've been avoiding. Vulnerability. Risk. Need.

Sexual anorexia looks more like avoidance than indulgence. Somehow I broke through that avoidance in my last post. Maybe it was lots of quiet time that helped. Maybe spiritual courage. Maybe giving myself permission not to write in prose. (I wouldn't call it poetry.) The result was raw and black and obtuse. A prime example of "elegancelessness." (Finally an excuse to use that word.) But no's a commentary!

(If you'd like, you can open the original text in a new window and place them side by side. Like a Shakespeare commentary, except not in iambic pentameter and not, you know, good.)

Sexual Anorexia is starvation
My therapist is teaching me to focus on "non-sexual intimacy" - with my friends, my kids, my dogs. (Sounds weird I know.) But a loving relationship also includes sexual intimacy. When it's there, but I run, that makes no sense. I don't understand it either.

Sexual Anorexia is trembling as you type
I don't know why this particular fear lives in my stomach muscles. Talking about sexual anorexia as a thing, to be fixed, makes me spasm into a fetal position. I hate hate hate saying that. It sounds melodramatic. It kind of is.

Sexual Anorexia is never posting for months and months
In addiction, we try to look "fine." In sexual anorexia, I succeed. I don't show up intoxicated and I don't lie about missing work. Everybody's happy. It's interesting that my readers are sometimes the first to notice that I'm not okay.

Sexual Anorexia is an exposed molar nerve
When I'm giving in to my sexual addiction, short shorts arouse me and make me want to act out. When I'm giving in to my sexual anorexia, short shorts make me feel nauseous and I fantasize about killing myself. Seriously, I wish they'd just stop wearing short shorts.

Sexual Anorexia is another bullshit term
No one's ever said this to me, but I fear they're thinking it. Like when a senator gets caught cheating and blames "sex addiction" and the media start writing that it's a made-up disease. I imagine them hearing "sexual anorexia" and saying what'll they think of next? Sheesh.

Sexual Anorexia is a wicked shift
When I'm anorexic, I don't get in trouble for looking at porn. Yay. Instead I spend hours - days - looking for ways to make my sexuality go away. Banders and burdizzos are tools used to castrate livestock. Yes, I've thought about it. Yes, there are forums where guys talk about it. Yes, people have done it. There's also the (somewhat less insane) surgical option. It's all crazy.

Sexual Anorexia is “fuck you”
It's what I mutter, to fight back against the adrenaline and the nausea, when I am triggered.

Sexual Anorexia is option #3
I've written before about living with a sexual abuse survivor. She's sometimes triggered by affection even when it's gentle and safe, and I have this raw wound that just won't heal - and I'm terrified of more rejection. Then I act out (porn) and I make it worse. I fantasize that if we could just get rid of sexuality it would make everything better. We could just play Scrabble and do puzzles.

Sexual Anorexia is my own religious order
I self injure. I know it's not okay. I'm working on it with my therapist. When I read about Silas in The Da Vinci Code, I began to include whipping myself with a belt. Again, crazy. I know.

Sexual Anorexia is a noxious searing flame in your gut
It constantly makes me physically sick, yet I hold on to it for dear life. Kind of like any other addiction. Drugs and porn and food and tobacco feel like the metaphorical onion layers. Sexual anorexia feels like the core. With this addiction, I'm on step #1. It's the best I can do right now.

P.S. Here's the book.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

And Finally

Sexual Anorexia is starvation
a gnawing gut and sand-grit mouth
then burning the bread and pissing in the water
because they're mine
and control's more important than being fed

Sexual Anorexia is trembling as you type
convulsions, doubling over, dizzy blurring vision
a sucker punch that never stops
run away now run run run
embarrassment shame
what kind of sick fuck does these things?

Sexual Anorexia is never posting for months and months
and your faceless cyber friends begin to write and ask
are you okay
what your f2f friends may not see
I know through your silence
and I wonder where you are

Sexual Anorexia is an exposed molar nerve
and life is chewing ice
every skirt or thigh or flirty glance that used to be a zing
somehow becomes an ice chip lodged
a deafening pulse of rage and loss and self-loathing

Sexual Anorexia is another bullshit term
for their diagnostic bible version IV
to excuse your bad behavior
WTF I act normal why can't you?
my simplistic answers invalidate your agony

Sexual Anorexia is a wicked shift
of fetishes and fantasies
screen-bound phony lesbians give way to
cattle banders and burdizzos
dark hotel rooms and narcotics
could I do it?
shady surgeons reassign me
to the void between the genders
and there I'd find a paradise
exorcised and free

Sexual Anorexia is “fuck you”
muttered vicious acid
when I'm heading for the toothpaste
and pass the condoms and the lubes
the sex scene in the movie
the frisky couple in the park
“it's all a fucking lie”
and I'm safe

Sexual Anorexia is option #3
I tried the right way #1
but intimacy and vulnerability failed
I can't endure the pain I simply can't endure that pain
I tried the wrong way #2
chemicals and images
that made her cry
so many times she cried so many many times
with option #3 I win
and swallow handfuls of herbal supplements
that I think will take the testosterone out of my blood
a slice-free castration

Sexual Anorexia is my own religious order
linking virtue with abuse
my private ascetic monastery
purple bruises on my inner thighs
pinching penance when my eyes have strayed
self flagellation and with each of 40 lashes
a word through gritted teeth

Sexual Anorexia is a noxious searing flame in your gut
that you shelter and stoke
and you cradle as an infant
because it's yours
fucking mine and you can't take it from me

You won't touch my friend my partner my comfort
my savior and my hope
and when I relent
finally take that cold-sweat step through that last addiction door

That's surrender