The Talk

When I was around 12 years old, my mom gave me a sex talk. This wasn’t our first sex talk. At that point I already knew the basic mechanics, but this was her more mature talk designed for my seventh grade ears.

“When you start dating, you need to be careful. You can never trust a boy because all he is thinking about is sex,” she began. At this point I had never even kissed a boy, but my thoughts were not at all virginal. I fantasized about having sex with Giovani Georgallis, the tall, athletic, impossibly good-looking boy in my class I was too shy to even make eye contact with; Christian Slater in Pump Up The Volume, Leonardo Dicarprio in Growing Pains, Axel Rose from Guns ‘N Roses, or whomever my celebrity crush de jour was.

“But Mom, some girls like sex too.”

“Sex does feel good for women, but it’s different. For women it is more about love and emotions. For men it’s just sex. Men are obsessed with sex. It’s all they think about.” I thought about how much I fantasized about Gio, Christian, Leonardo and Axel. I wasn’t just imagining them being my boyfriends, I was imagining them on top of me. I thought about this a lot. Was I obsessed with sex too?

“Maybe that’s how it was when you were growing up, but girls are different now. Plus, not every guy is like that.”

“These things don’t change. Trust me. They will say or do anything. Lie, cheat, steal just for sex. That is ALL they think about.”

I left this conversation with two things: women shouldn’t like sex or think about it as much as men, and never trust a man. Thanks Mom!

In her defense, this sex talk was way more than a lot of my friends got, and way more than the talk my Aunt Buffy gave me a year or two later when I was living with her: “If I ever, EVER find out you are having sex you are out of this house!” (hey, it kept me a virgin until a month before I moved away to college). I doubt my mom ever even got a sex talk from her mother, my ultra conservative, super Catholic grandma.

Pretty much ever guy I’ve been involved with has lied to me, so maybe mom was right on this point. Of course, one could make the argument that since I believed all men to be untrustworthy, I only ever picked untrustworthy men.

The part of this talk that really screwed me up was the notion that women are not supposed to be into sex so much. I am and always have been obsessed with sex. Even before I knew what sex was, I was humping banisters and thinking about some boy from school (or Han Solo, my earliest crush on a fictional character). Thanks to the messages I got from the women in my family, I was always convinced that I was some kind of pervert freak.

I can waste a day watching porn online and masturbating. Even now that I’m in a program to treat sex addiction, I’ve never met another woman who has admitted to this. It’s not exactly like I’m shouting this from the rooftops either, though.

In meetings I identify as a sex and love addict. If I share about my acting out behaviors, it’s mostly about the “love” addiction — spying on my qualifier, obsessing over him, etc. When I share about my sex addiction it’s in extremely vague terms. I don’t want to offend or trigger anyone with tales of my sluttishness, but another reason is that I don’t want to admit to a room full of people that I watch porn or masturbate. “Girls don’t do that!”

I hear that statement in my Grandmother’s voice. One time when I was about 15 she walked in and I was lying on the couch watching tv. I had my hand down my pants scratching my crotch, Al Bundy style. Scratching only, I swear! But she thought I was doing something else.

“Don’t ever touch yourself there. Girls don’t do that!” I hadn’t yet figured out how to masturbate to completion so I hardly ever did it at that time. And if I did do it, it was behind a closed door and under heavy covers (God, and your dead relatives can’t see through covers). Still I was mortified that she would even think I was masturbating.

For the record, I think masturbation is totally healthy. And if you are someone who can watch porn in a moderate way, more power to you. I don’t think these behaviors are wrong. In fact neither one of them are even on my bottom-lines list (although porn might end up there on the next edit). I do think spending all day masturbating and watching porn is a problem, though.

As I was saying, in meetings I identify as a sex and love addict. A large percentage of the women there only identify as love addicts. In my judgier moments I think, why the fuck are you here then? But I know why they are there and they have just as much right to be there as I do.

My sponsor, a woman from my mother’s generation, is one of those women. She is nurturing, kind and so supportive. I am very grateful to have her. The only problem is I feel uncomfortable talking to her about the sex stuff. She just doesn’t get it and it is obvious how uncomfortable it makes her to talk about sex in even the most general of terms. I’d say she is probably a sexual anorexic, or in laymen’s terms, a prude.

I am currently recovering from/still going through a slip. I’m working on renewing my sobriety and recommitting to my bottom-lines. Today I was talking to my sponsor and going through my consequences inventory. I told her I had had phone sex. I didn’t want to tell her. I knew she’d be uncomfortable, but how can I go through this process without being honest about my behaviors?

I could hear that I’d made her ill at ease and instantly started minimizing. I’ve only done it once or twice (a lie), I’ve only done it with one guy (another lie). I also didn’t clarify that “phone sex” also meant “skype sex.” I told her that I think phone sex should be added to my bottom-lines list. She, of course, agreed. But she also asked me a question that was a little odd. She asked if I would want my daughter to be doing that. I said no, because I knew that’s what she was looking for. She said if I didn’t want my daughter doing it, then I shouldn’t be doing it myself.

The thing is though, if my 15-year-old daughter were having phone sex with a man, I would have a big problem with it. But I’m not 15, I’m 30. If my 30 year-old-daughter were having phone sex with someone, I wouldn’t care. It would be none of my business.

Asking me what I would want for my daughter made me think about my mom, my grandma, and my Aunt Buffy. They wouldn’t want me to have phone sex, but it’s because believe it to be morally wrong, not because it was making me feel bad.

I wouldn’t want my theoretical daughter, at any age, to be engaging in an activity that made her feel like shit, but I do want her to grow up with positive attitudes toward sex.

Since I’ve been identifying as a sex addict I’ve come across many people who get up in arms and want to argue that sex addiction isn’t a real thing. Most of these arguments seem to be rooted in semantics. To these people I say, who cares? If people are getting help for what they see to be a problem then why are you arguing about terminology? But a lot of people also think that “sex addicts” are just horny prudes that have been brainwashed by religious fanatics and anti-porn crusaders to think that healthy sexual expression is evil.

Sometimes I wonder if they are right. Maybe if I didn’t grow up with unhealthy messages about sex, I’d be a totally normal, well-adjusted adult.

Then I remember that those “girls don’t like sex” talks were the least of my childhood traumas. If that was all that ever happened in my childhood, I’d probably just be a horny girl with a guilt complex (aka a kinkster). My acting out went so much deeper than just being horny or just being kinky, though.

Even though I’m a sex addict in recovery I still consider myself sex positive. If I ever have a daughter, I don’t know what I’ll say in my talk, but I know it will be a lot better than the ones I got.

Family of Origin

I spent Christmas in the city my mother grew up. “Springfield” is a smaller city a few hours southeast of here. When my mom lived there, the population was around 40,000. Now it’s at least eight times that size. Even though Springfield doesn’t exactly qualify as a small town anymore, it still feels kind of backwoodsy to me.

My mom was the third of four children born to hardcore Catholics. She has an older brother and sister, and a younger brother. My mom left Springfield when she went off to college. I want to make her seem cooler than she was and say she moved to the big city and never looked back, but I don’t think she had any hard feelings towards the place. Growing up, we spent a lot of weekends and holidays there at my grandparents’ house. Her younger brother, Ned, also left Springfield after high school. Uncle Ned and his family move around every few years for his job, but they currently live on the other side of the country.

Christmas was with my Uncle Michael and Aunt Liz, my mom’s older siblings. They both still live in Springfield. Looking at these two, it’s evident that my addictions/issues/compulsions/whatever they are weren’t born in a vacuum. I don’t know if it’s genetic or environmental, but these two have the same thing as me.

My Uncle Michael married his high school sweetheart right after he graduated from college. He went on to have a successful career in a esteemed field. He was married to my Aunt Beverly for 25 years, but they never had kids. One day he came home from work and she was gone. According to my uncle, in preparation for this departure, she had charged up all their credit cards, and drained all of their bank accounts. She then moved in with a boyfriend she had secretly had for several months. This happened when I was in high school. I was close to my Aunt Beverly before this happened and I’d like to think my uncle’s account was exaggerated, but I have no way of knowing for sure. After she left my uncle, I never saw or heard from Aunt Beverly again.

Less than a year later Uncle Michael was already in a serious relationship with this woman named Lauren. They’ve been together ever since. I don’t even know where to begin with this bitch. My uncle is one of the most respected men in Springfield, not to mention highly educated and professionally successful, and she treats him like he’s some idiot schlub who spends all day lounging around on the couch in his boxer shorts, scratching his balls. She is emotionally and verbally abusive and he just takes it. They never married (he’s proposed and been rejected several times), but he bankrolls her entire existence. They own a couple of different houses. While I’m sure she didn’t put a cent into any of these properties, her name is on all the deeds. I don’t even think they live together the majority of the time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she also has a boyfriend. He has also completely adopted her family (she has two grown kids and four grandkids). He financially supports them as well. While he makes a good living, Lauren and her family are draining him dry. He is really close to her grandkids and considers them his grandchilden. And they are sweet kids. It’s not their fault their grandma’s a cunt.

Part of me is a little jealous of Lauren’s family. Uncle Michael and I were never particularly close. When I was a kid, my mom told me that Uncle Michael doesn’t like children, basically telling me not to take it personally that he always ignored me. He loves Lauren’s grandkids, though. Now that I am an adult, we are closer, but he’s much closer to Lauren’s adult children. I think one reason he doesn’t end things with Lauren is that he is so attached to her family. The bigger reason, though, is that he is terrified of being alone.

My Aunt Liz has been married for close to 40 years. No one in my family likes my Uncle Kevin (including me), just like no one likes that bitch Lauren. They  never had children. My Aunt Liz is the kindest, most generous woman I have ever known and her husband is the most misanthropic, curmudgeonly man I have ever known. Like my Uncle Michael does for Lauren, Aunt Liz completely bankrolls Kevin’s existence; although on a much smaller scale, since Liz makes a modest income. Kevin has rarely worked since they have been married. Even though Aunt Liz is the sole breadwinner in the family, Kevin wears the pants. He verbally abuses my aunt to the point that she has next to no self-esteem. He routinely calls her fat, and cheats on her; at least he used to when he was younger, doubt he has much prospects or even the ability to get it up these days (he’s older than her, and has got to be closing in on 70).

I’ve always been pretty close to my Aunt Liz. She’ll call me up and tell me about some shit that Kevin did to her. Nothing makes me angrier than my loved ones being mistreated. “Throw! That! Bitch! Out!” I want to scream into the phone, but I usually manage to be a bit more polite. I tell her that she deserves better and that she doesn’t have to put up with this. The next day, she’ll call me up and tell me she was just having a bad day. “We don’t always get along perfectly, but I really love your Uncle Kevin. He’s my soulmate.” I don’t believe in the idea of a soulmate. I think there are potentially thousands, if not millions of people one could connect, fall in love and live happily ever after with. But if I did believe in this silly notion, there is no way that that asshole Kevin is my sweet Aunt Liz’s soulmate.

I stayed with Uncle Michael over Christmas. Aunt Liz was supposed to join us, but she ended up getting pretty sick. On Christmas Eve, I dropped off some cookies I had made for Aunt Liz and, by default Uncle Kevin (would never make that twat cookies on his own). I called her up Christmas morning to see if she was feeling any better. She said that she had had a rough night, that Kevin had been mean to her. She was about to eat one of the cookies I had made and he said to her, “why don’t you go take a look in the mirror before you eat that.” That bitch! When I was over there he stuffed no fewer than one third of the cookies that I had lovingly made for MY AUNT into his gaping maw, and she didn’t touch any because she wasn’t feeling well. Then she goes to have her first one and he has the balls to shame her for it. On Christmas Eve! Who the fuck does he think he is?

Then she said to me, sounding more depressed than I have ever heard her sound, “single people might think they are lonely, but the pain of being alone in no way compares to the loneliness and pain someone can feel being in a relationship.” Merry fucking Christmas! Later that day, I told my Uncle Michael what she had said (the people in my family are far too polite to criticize Lauren and Kevin to their faces, but have no trouble throwing shade behind their backs) and he agreed with her statement so emphatically that it became clear he was no longer talking about Aunt Liz and Uncle Kevin. Merry fucking Christmas, again.

I was depressed as fuck after these conversations. It’s one thing if someone just wants to park him or herself in a shitty relationship and just deal with it for the rest of his or her lives, but I can see that the stresses of these relationships are killing my aunt and uncle. Uncle Michael and Aunt Liz are both compulsive overeaters (as am I) and severely overweight, to the point that they are having major health complications (don’t judge me for the cookies, I really didn’t give them very many). My Aunt Liz can barely walk half a block and my Uncle Michael would react by visibly stuffing food in his mouth every time Lauren would berate him. They also both self-medicate (as do I), one with pills and alcohol, and the other with pills and marijuana. Also, they both seem so fucking sad.

Clearly, like their niece, these two are love addicts. They also abuse food, alcohol, drugs, and have issues with depression. Looking at both of them, I see how my life could go, and that scares me, because neither one of them seems to be leading a particularly pleasant existence. It also pains me seeing two of the people I love in such pain. I don’t have many parent figures left in my life, and I fear that if they don’t find healthier ways of dealing with their issues they won’t be here for too much longer.

One thing that separates me from my aunt and uncle is that I don’t get trapped in toxic long term relationships. I have had exactly one long term relationship in my life (you can read about Peter here) and the experience was so traumatic that I haven’t been able to commit to anyone since. I don’t know that bouncing from one toxic four month relationship to another toxic four month relationship is necessarily any better than staying in one awful relationship for years and years; but it feels a lot less lonely, just like my aunt said.

When I was driving home from Springfield, I noticed something. Despite the depressing time I had in Springfield, I felt okay. Not great, not awful, but okay. When I was constantly dating and acting out with men, I only ever felt elation or agony. I would feel elation at the beginning of a new romance or sexual relationship. This feeling of ecstasy was usually short lived and quickly replaced by intense agony. Agony that he didn’t seem to be as into me as he was at first, agony that he wasn’t responding to my calls/texts quickly enough, and agony at realizing that he had lied to me and he wasn’t who I thought he was. I will take feeling “just okay”, to feeling agony, any day.

As I pull myself back on track after all the slipping I did this past couple of weeks, I need to remember this.

Love

I came home from work yesterday to find a Christmas care package from my Aunt Nadine and Uncle Ned, who live on the other side of the country. It contained homemade banana bread, cookies, a Christmas stocking full of goodies and two wrapped presents. It’s hard to put into words how moved I was by this unexpected package.

Lately, I’ve been lucky enough to keep getting reminders that I am loved. Big things like this care package, but also small things like a neighbor kid drawing a picture for me, or a text from a high school friend telling me that she misses me are enough to move me to tears. Surely, these kinds of non-romatic displays of affection always existed in my life, but I always took them for granted. If it wasn’t Prince Charming with a dozen roses, I barely even noticed. I was too busy lamenting all that I didn’t have — a boyfriend, a husband, a dom — to realize all the blessings that I did have.

Deep down, I didn’t believe I was even lovable. Sure, a guy might stick around for awhile if I was doing everything I could to please him sexually and be a good sub, but if sex was out of the equation that same guy would have zero interest in me. And the other people in my life — family, friends, coworkers, neighbors — they were just there because they got stuck with me, not out of a genuine tenderness for me.

Occasionally I still tend to oh, woe is me thinking (see previous entry, for example), but most of the time I am so appreciative for all that I do have. And I feel so lucky that these special people stuck around and still care about me despite the fact that most of my life I’ve moped around like a surly teenager and haven’t been able to return their affections.

Today, I can say that I am grateful for all the love in my life and I’m grateful that I’m able to accept and give love. Most importantly, I now see that I am a lovable person and I love myself.

Alone

Last night I saw Shame. I wanted to see this movie because the main character, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a sex addict. First off, it’s a well-acted, beautifully shot movie with a compelling script and I would have enjoyed the movie whether or not the topic of sex addiction was on my radar. Also, Michael Fassbender is hot and naked throughout much of the movie.

After seeing Shame, I thought I was going to write about how realistically the movie portrayed sex addiction and how much I could relate to the frenzied hunger that is never quite sated, and the desperate, yet fruitless desire to quell intense emotional pain with the ecstasy of an orgasm. Today, however, all I can think about is the relationship between Brandon and his sister Cissy (Carey Mulligan). Even though they have a highly dysfunctional relationship, they have each other.

Still of Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in Shame

I can’t help but think how much easier my life and my recovery would be if I had someone. As some as you know, I am an only child and both of my parents died before I entered high school. It’s not like I am completely alone. I have close friends who are like family, and an extended family that loves and cares for me. Still, it’s not the same thing as having a close blood relative. Extended family is okay, but sometimes because I’m not immediate family, they don’t think to include me.

This holiday season has been particularly tough, because I wasn’t invited to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with the family members I lived with after my parents died. It wasn’t like they just forgot to invite me, either. I asked if I could come and was told that there wouldn’t be enough room, even if I stayed in a hotel. While this probably sounds like a pretty shitty thing to do, I know these people well enough to know that this wasn’t done out of malice, but just out of thoughtlessness. They have each other, and especially as their families are growing, I’m not included in this. I’m not immediate family. It hurts that the family I spent a chunk of my childhood with doesn’t think of me as a member, but I’m fortunate to have plenty of other aunts, uncles and cousins whose doors are always open to me. I’ll be spending Christmas with some of them.

While I am grateful for the family I do have, it’s just not the same as having siblings or parents, or even a husband and kids of my own. It’s lonely. A loneliness that few people can truly relate too.

Much of what drove my sex and love addiction was this loneliness. I so desperately wanted to belong to someone, to have someone take care of me. I would cling like my life depended on it. At the same time, I got freaked out whenever I felt genuine closeness with someone I and would push them away. I could be very mean and abusive to the men I was dating. Disrespectful. Usually this meant I was left clinging on to someone I had no real connection to aside from sex, like HC. This was the love addiction. The pain from being alone was what drove my sex addiction. I just wanted to obliterate my feelings and lose myself in sexual ecstasy. Then as soon as it was over the pain would come back even more intensely and I would have to do it all over again.

I worry that no amount of therapy or of steps will mitigate this loneliness. Really, the only cure for not having any family is to have a family. It’s hard for me to imagine I will ever be healthy enough to accomplish this. When loneliness is both the cause and the effect of my disease, how can I ever completely heal?