Thursday, May 30, 2013

My name is GMP and I am a sex addict

During my first meeting with my addiction recovery group (a group which is not affiliated with the LDS church in any way, more on that later), everyone introduced themselves as either a sex addict or a sexaholic.  When it came to be my turn to share, I followed suit.  The words came out much more easily than I would have imagined.  It felt reassuring somehow to identify myself as a sex addict.

I think I already mentioned that I'd had a panic attack on the drive home from my first addiction recovery group, henceforth shortened for my love of acronyms to ARG.  My second ARG meeting (haha, I love it) was as good as the first, but the drive home was almost as bad.  I didn't descend into full-on panic, but I felt nervous and edgy.  My third meeting was better in all regards.  I enjoyed sharing, even though I shared some pretty awful stuff, and I felt good driving home.

I haven't begun to work the 12 steps yet, nor have I read any of the literature provided to me at the first meeting.  In that regard, I acknowledge that I'm not really part of the program yet. All I've done thus far is attend the meetings, feel the solidarity and enjoy the hugs at the end. That's been a decent gesture toward getting into the 12 steps in earnest.  So that's next on my agenda.

Part of the impetus toward working the steps was a realization I had this week after I'd spent a full twelve hours on Craigslist swapping pictures with other guys. My internet activity meant I hadn't slept all night, and this after driving back to Idaho from Colorado the night before. I'd gotten less than four hours sleep in the prior 48, and none in the prior 24. I hadn't eaten in over 36 hours, I'd lost five pounds in the previous week, I hadn't done laundry in nearly a month, I'd missed several assignments for school  and work. I had lost control, relapsed to a point to which I'd never been before.  My mind, at least pre-orgasm, was consumed with one thing and one thing only; have the best sexual experience you've ever had, and make it count.

I was living a life completely bereft of integrity and was deliberately avoiding my Bishopric and Sunday School president so I wouldn't inadvertently leave clues as to my indiscretions. I'd been lying to my parents and roommates, blaming homework and hobbies for my Internet use. Putting aside spiritual health, I had signed my name and my word to a level of honesty I wasn't living.  If I was going to be an addict or if I was seeking sex, then great, but I wanted to have some integrity about it.

At that, I screwed my courage as best I could and made an appointment with my bishop.  I prayed to Heavenly Father and told him that I was prepared to accept the consequences for my actions, consequences that included church probation or disfellowshipment and potential expulsion from school. Just so I don't mislead anyone into thinking the church comes down on pornography too harshly, there were other choices I'd made, the details of which are not important to you, that go beyond the realm of your traditional punishments for pornography use.

At the end of our meeting, I waited for the bishop's judgment on pins and needles.  I had broken my word when I signed the BYU Honor Code and was prepared to have my student status revoked. I acknowledged to him that I didn't necessarily feel religious guilt, but was ashamed that I'd made myself into a liar. I was prepared for the worst.

Thankfully, his judgment was that I should cease to take the Sacrament for some time and that I should make sure to prepare for my Sunday School lesson well in advance so I could testify of whatever parts of the lesson I knew were true.  I was confused.  He wasn't going to release me as Sunday School teacher?  He wasn't submitting my name for church disciplinary action or my case to the Honor Code office for an academic ruling?

The answer to those questions was no, and his only condition was simple. As long as I complied with that (very very easy) condition, it would be okay.

I left his office with somewhat less guilt, a lot less shame, and some hope for the future. I know I'm going to screw it up before I get healthy, but I'm looking forward to working the steps. And I'm going to try really hard to measure what successes I do have.  There have been lots of people of all different life paths cheering me on and reminding me to be realistic and human and for that I am grateful.

[EDIT: This was my 200th post. Happy 200th issueversary, Gay Mormon Pioneer]

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Big post: Sex addiction, ADHD and panic storms

There's been a lot going on in my brain lately, so let's talk about it really briefly.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but my counselor keeps coming back to the idea that I have ADHD. I fidget constantly and he's picked up on this and run with it, inquiring about my study habits, school performance, thought processes, et cetera.  The fidgeting, combined with self-reported problems with procrastination, jumbled thoughts and addictive/compulsive behavior, makes my counselor think I have the neurological condition ADHD, rather than behavioral problems.  He says that those with ADHD can white-knuckle their way through life, as I've done till now (having maintained a great GPA in college, I might add).  However, he says that a full diagnosis, if positive, and pharmacological treatment might help me with all of those things.

I must admit, I've always been tempted to try attention-enhancing medication and I've occasionally self-diagnosed ADHD as a condition in my life.  But the naturopath in me hates the idea of "doping" even more than I already I am.  I don't like the idea of always being within arm's reach of the medicine cabinet, of having to have my pills on me whenever I travel. I believe that those pills and medications are modern miracles and that they can make people's lives better, but for whatever reason, I always have that thought in terms of other people, not me.

Then I went to an addiction recovery meeting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Love in the Time of Cholera

Right now, I'm reading a great book by Gabriel García Márquez called Love in the Time of Cholera. The book appealed to me because of its classical, dense, overly romantic title and its supporting role in the movie Serendipity.

So far it has not disappointed. The book is classical, dense and overly romantic. I read for what feels like hours and then I look back and find that I've only progressed a half-dozen pages. The floral descriptions of passion and love come off as alternately syrupy and bitter. It would be the stuff of soap-opera legend if it weren't so authentic.

There are a few parts in the book wherein each principal character so perfectly exemplifies what love feels like. In one, Dr. Juvenal Urbino's passion for Fermina Daza becomes manifest in his near-obsession with placing himself within ear- or eyeshot of her and behaving conspicuously in an attempt to sway her attractions his way.

In another, Fermina, out of anger and resentment for her feelings of love towards him, accepts Dr. Urbino's proposal of marriage curtly, caught off guard by her jealousy when he flirts with another woman.

In another, Florentino Ariza, forlorn over the loss of his true love Fermina, is stripped of his virginity by a fellow steam-ship traveller. In that moment, caught in the passion of not-entirely-contested rape by this woman, he comes to believe that he can fill the anguish of heartbreak with sex, that love can be replicated and attained through lust.

As I read, I identified with each character's actions.  I related with Dr. Urbino's cautious arrangement of his schedule to coincide with Fermina's. I laughed knowingly at Fermina's angry realization that she loved the man she despised. I hung my head shamefully as I recalled times I tried to recover from loneliness or heartbreak by using others.

I'm eager to see how it ends.  I want to know what advice Mr. Márquez has for me in my search for love.  I woke up today feeling bitterly lonely and feeling like time marched on past me while my feet, steeped in ignorant cement, stayed firmly in place.  I watched friends marry and have children, other friends come out of the closet and become voices of hope for the power of the Gospel to transform, and still others leave the church and find what seems to be genuine happiness is same-sex relationships. And then there's me, in the same rut I've been in for 7 years, caught in the conflict between my brain and my tail.

So instead of going to work or school, I called in sick, bought a Diet Coke, drove into the countryside and read Juvenal, Fermina and Florentino's tales of love and woe and moving on and it filled me with a small shred of hope combined with a small shred of depression. Just like love.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

This is a post about my family fasting for me. Titles are hard.

Read this one to the end. It's scattered and confusing, but the end is what matters.

My weekend was very interesting.  Friday began as usual, then rapidly descended into so much homework and projects that I didn't end up leaving my house until 9 pm. So all of this might have happened sooner had I not been so consumed with homework that I almost literally didn't have space in my head for emotion.

Saturday is when the real story begins. I woke up with a general sense of ennui. I fixed my breakfast and went back to bed for a few hours, trying to escape the clamor of my roommates making breakfast for their various and noisy love interests. I read my book for awhile (Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Dense but interesting), got out of bed, cleaned the kitchen, showered etc., but all with a looming fear or anger or something hanging over my head. It finally hit at about four in the afternoon. I lost myself in angst. Everything set off my rage and loneliness.

It was about this time that my mom called to simply tell me that my family was fasting for me the next day. She said that they knew that I needed a boost and was feeling depressed and they wanted to help. At that, she closed the conversation and hung up.  The feelings of angst lifted a bit. I drove into town, found a place to read my book, and spent the evening in vague contentment. The raincloud that was hanging over my head had lifted a bit and sun was beginning to spill through ever so slightly. It was still a grey day, but there was promise of sun tomorrow.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

First day of therapy

Today was my first day of therapy in a few years.  I've really missed it. My new counselor is a nice guy. I immediately felt very comfortable with him. Today was really just a get-to-know-you session; he took detailed notes about the names of my siblings, friends and enemies, asked me for a characterization of myself, got my health and counseling history and asked what my goals for counseling would be.

I told him exactly what I was feeling, that I wanted to evaluate who I am and what I believe and want for myself, then find a way to commit and reconcile any outlying feelings with new definition of who I am. I told him I pretty much exactly what I've been telling all of you for a year now, that I had addictions to pornography and masturbation, that I felt lonely fairly regularly and that I wanted to feel loved either by a man or by God.  He sat there opposite me, scribbling every detail, I think, so he could review the notes later and remember my story for next week.  I appreciate his preparation.

All of it would have seemed too cold and clinical were it not for an experience I shared with a straight friend from a few weeks ago. This friend and I had gotten into an argument after he posted some incredibly offensive things about gay people and gay marriage. I don't mean he was expressing his opinion, I mean he was spreading hate speech. I called him out on it and he rather rudely told me that if I'd "done [my] duty and served a mission," I'd understand God's plan for His children and how the [slur deleted] were ruining that. He justified his hate speech religiously.  I honestly didn't think people like that existed outside the Westboro Baptist Church, and yet, there I was, being both indirectly and directly attacked by it.

My counselor asked what slur my friend used, then made a guess. When I confirmed his guess (which has six letters and begins with F), he rolled his eyes in disgust and began to go off very briefly before composing himself and asking me to go on.  That really made me laugh.

This is going to be good.  I'm excited about getting help through all this and I'm grateful my counselor seems so sensitive. I don't entirely trust him outside the professional relationship we now have, but I'm looking forward to building that relationship.  Future updates as events warrant.

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