The Cyber Stalker

A few years back I dated this guy. Let’s call him Cyber Stalker, or CS for short. CS seemed totally normal at first. He was good looking, charming, well-educated and intelligent. After awhile, though, he started to creep me out. He would make comments about how often I went on the dating site where we met. He wanted to know how many other guys I was seeing. Then he told me he found my profile on another site. CS also knew stuff about me I had never told him. Apparently he had googled me, looked at my resume and found articles I had written in college. I had a blog at the time and the page hits went up exponentially after I met CS. I’d love to attribute this to something other than CS combing through every word I had ever written, but I know the score.

One night I was on the dating site where CS and I had met. I got an email from a man that, based on his profile, seemed perfect — tall, creative, successful, rich, intelligent. I talked to Mr. Perfect for a few days on messenger. We talked for hours. The only weird thing was that Mr. Perfect never wanted to talk on the phone.

I eventually found out why when CS called me up screaming. He called me a lying bitch and a whore. See, there was no Mr. Perfect. CS had created a fake profile and I had been talking to him the whole time. Not that it was any of his business, but a couple of times I had told CS I was going to bed, then stayed up talking to Mr. Perfect. I’d also told CS I was only looking for a casual relationship, but then told Mr. Perfect I was looking for a long term relationship. This is why CS felt justified in calling me a liar. It never occurred to him that his lies far outweighed mine.

I don’t know why I kept seeing CS, but I did. After we broke up, I found out that Mr. Perfect wasn’t the only fake account he created. He also created a fake female account to talk to other men on the dating site that he suspected I was seeing.

Around this time I made the mistake of agreeing to meet a different guy in public without ever hearing his voice on the phone. I went to the coffee shop where we had planned to meet and waited and waited, but the guy never showed. Later I found out that this was another account that CS had fabricated. He sat home laughing his ass off while I got stood up by a phantom of his creation.

We finally broke up. CS left me alone for awhile. But once and awhile I would get these texts from numbers I didn’t recognize saying things like, “sorry babe, my test results came back positive.” This was CS’s sick idea of a joke. I learned to ignore him.

Six months after we stopped seeing each other, I was living in a new apartment. I was in a wild mood one night and put ad on Craigslist looking for a casual hookup. Stupidly I let one guy come over to my house without first meeting him in public. We had talked on the phone, and he sounded cool, but the private number he called from should have been a red flag. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. When my doorbell rang it was CS on my doorstep. The strangest thing about this was that I didn’t even post pictures in my ad. How could he tell it was me just from my words? I was freaked out, but ended up having sex with him anyway.

After that, CS came over a few more times, almost always unannounced. I knew he was crazy, but I was crazy too. So even though I was angry, it never stopped me from sleeping with him.

***

All of the above is true, except for one major detail.

In real life the roles were reversed.

My ego likes to portray a certain image, even in recovery. I am the sweet little girl who was dealt a shitty hand. I was abused, neglected, abandoned all throughout childhood. Then as an adult I was constantly victimized by men — raped, used and abused, lied to, humiliated. All of that is true, but I’m also a perpetrator.

I attempted to control, lied to, and violated men that I was obsessed with. I hate, hate, hate the word stalker, but that’s what I was. At least it’s what I DID. Because at my core, I’m not a stalker. Stalking goes against every moral code I have. I would never ever violate a friend, a family member, a coworker, a neighbor, or anyone else by invading their privacy. But every conviction I have goes out the window when I am hooked on someone. The addiction takes over and my authentic self is lost. It’s an extremely dark place that I could easily revisit.

But every day spent in recovery brings me farther and farther into the light.

Advertisements

White Knight Fantasy

Some days anxiety descends on me, like heavy mud burying me in a pit I have no idea how to even start digging myself out of.

What do I do first?

The bulk of my week is spent at a job that I’m overqualified and underpaid for. It’s also a job that takes a lot of preparation and energy. At the end of the day I’m tired. I know that I should be applying for other jobs, that that should be my first priority. But applying in itself takes a lot of time and effort, and I’m short on both at the end of the day. My job has no paid time off, and I barely make ends meet as it is, so taking a day off isn’t a possibility.

I know there is more to it than just being exhausted. Psychologically there is some kind of block that’s preventing me from applying for the kind of jobs I’m certified for. Part of it is probably fear of rejection. I usually apply to jobs that I’m overqualified for because I know I’ll get them. When I put a lot of effort into applying for a good job and don’t even get called for an interview, I’m crushed. I usually end up talking myself out of applying before I even start.

Another issue is that I’m not really sure I even want to be in the field I’m in. The real reason I went back to school to get certified in this field was because I thought it would just be something to do until I met the guy. You know, the guy that would make life bearable and give it meaning. That was my real career, finding him. My job was just a way to make money until my “real” life started.

I also have a lot of shame and embarrassment over the state of my career. I’m at an age now, where most of the people I went to high school and college with have actual grown-up jobs with 401Ks. Fuck, most of them are married. A lot of them even have kids and own their own houses. I mean if I’m going to compare myself to other people, I might as well throw all of it into the pity pot.

And it’s not just the job and relationship stuff that is stressing me out, I also get majorly overwhelmed by everyday things like washing dishes and folding my laundry. I moved into this apartment more than six months ago, and still have some boxes I haven’t unpacked. I don’t even have a couch yet.

Even if my life were just coming home everyday from work and cleaning my apartment, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up. Luckily, though, my life isn’t that simple. There are self-care things I do to keep sane–going to yoga and meditation, going to meetings, going to the gym, doing step work, writing, praying and checking in with my higher power, having a social life with friends and family.

I’m grateful that I have all of these topline behaviors in my life, but I’d also like to not be embarrassed by my apartment and lack of career. I look around and it seems like the world is full of women who manage to have kick-ass jobs, amazing husbands, and fabulous homes that are clean and tidy all while raising kids, staying fit, and leading full social lives. I’m not even doing 20 percent of that and I manage to be overwhelmed to the point of paralyzation.

I know it’s not productive to compare myself to other people, and I have no idea of knowing what someone’s life is really like from the outside. But it’s so freaking tempting when I’m in this kind of mood and looking for ammo to abuse myself with.

Today is day 8 of no contact with men. I know that’s contributing to my foul mood. I’m in withdrawal. I want to use another person to sooth myself. I want to call up Mr. FCFW, Anthony, Carson, or some other guy and cry on his shoulder. I want him to magically make everything better. Realistically, though, I know that would be a pointless exercise. Mr. FCFW has his own wife and kids to deal with and doesn’t need a 33-year-old adopted daughter to drain him further. Carson is even worse off than me. And Anthony has his own troubles to deal with, ditto for all of my other male friends.

The only “guy” I should be calling up right now and asking for help is my Higher Power. I know that’s really all I can do–ask God for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, for the courage to change the things I can, and for the wisdom to know the difference.

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?

Shame

I’m a good girl. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what most people think when they look at me. I got good grades in school, never got in trouble as a kid, have never been much of a party girl, haven’t ever used a drug besides pot. I even have a stereotypical “good girl” job. Even when I was acting out sexually, I still tried to cultivate and maintain an “oh, I’ve never done this before” image with the guys I was screwing. I did a lot of things good girls don’t do. I had sex with men I’d known less than an hour, I had sex with people I knew were married, I had sex with people I met on craigslist causal encounters, I occasionally had sex with more than one person in a night, I met most of the people I “dated” off of BDSM sites, I let people degrade and humiliate me sexually, and the list goes on and on. Very few people in my life knew/know about what I was doing behind closed doors.

While I’m not exactly proud of my sex addiction, I have to be honest… it was pretty fun. Since I’ve been in recovery, I’ve often fantasized about just being a sex addict. My, or more precisely, my addict’s ideal life would look a little something like this: happily married to a devoted, handsome, well-off man, with beautiful kids, in a beautiful house, with everyone thinking I am the perfect wife and mother; all while having lover after lover on the side. But this fantasy in no way resembles the actual life I was living in addiction. You know why? Because I’m also a love addict and there is nothing fun about love addiction.

I didn’t fall for every guy I was involved with, or even most, but when I did fall it was in a bad way. And it was always with the most inappropriate, unavailable, or shitty guy I could find. I don’t know how to just like a romantic interest in a normal way, I only knew how to like someone like a crazed, obsessed stalker.

This is what fills me with the most shame, the love addiction. Sex addition almost feels edgy and cool (two words that don’t usually describe me), but love addiction feels terribly pathetic. The things I did as a love addict — continuing to see someone after I knew they had lied to me about everything, sitting in my apartment on a Friday night waiting for a guy who shows up four hours late, begging someone to take me back after he’s rejected me, paying a psychic thousands of dollars to reunite me with a lost love, staying with someone I’m scared of — fill me with the most self-loathing.

A few nights ago I had a minor break down. I was so angry at myself for wasting months obsessing over one person, who probably barely remembers I exist; one person who lied to me time and time again. I called my sponsor and she reminded me that this is a disease.

“You wouldn’t be angry at someone for having cancer, would you?” she asked. She said I can be angry at the disease, I can be angry at God, but I can’t be angry at myself, because it’s not my fault that I have this illness. I know that she’s right, but sometimes it’s hard to believe.

At the same time I am grateful for the love addiction. My sex addiction was progressing, but I don’t think I was anywhere near a bottom. If I was only a sex addict, who knows what my bottom could have been? Thank God I stopped acting out before I contracted an STD or hooked up with someone seriously disturbed. My bottom could have been death. As unglamorous as love addiction is, it’s the reason I am in recovery today and for that I am grateful.

My Dad’s Porn Stash

When I was around 8 or 9 I found my father’s stash of porn magazines in the garage. They were mostly Playboys, but there were also some hardcore ones. At the time I remember feeling a lot of shame that my father had these magazines. But looking at them, I also felt titillated and exhilarated. I enjoyed looking at them, which made me feel extremely guilty. I looked at them every opportunity I got, and every time I felt like the biggest creep in the world.

I don’t even really understand where the feelings of guilt and shame came from. I mean, I was 8, it’s not like I knew much about sex and it’s not like anyone in my family or community was directly telling a second or third grader that sex was this bad thing. Also my parents weren’t “fire and brimstone” religious types. My mom was somewhat religious, but fairly progressive, and my dad was an atheist.  Somehow, though, without even knowing what it was, I picked up that sex was “wrong” and “dirty.”

Is shame over sexuality just innate? Was it innate for me? Maybe my parents didn’t need to shame me, maybe it was just in my blood — Irish and German Catholic immigrants on one side, and WASPy descendants of Puritans on the other. Maybe some kind of shame gene was passed down.

Now that I’m an adult, I realize that finding Dad’s porn is a fairly common experience. At the time though, I felt like the sickest, dirtiest, most deviant person on the face of the earth. Even now, while I intellectually understand that it’s human nature to be titillated by pornography and sex, even at a young age, there is a voice in the back of my head that says, “No, there was something wrong with you. And there still is something wrong with you. You are a sick fuck. You should be locked up.”

So much of my sexual acting out was based on the same combination of emotions I felt looking at my Dad’s porn — shame, guilt, and exhilaration. For many years I was drawn to BDSM, for this reason (and many others). I needed to be told I was “bad,” to be humiliated, to be punished. It felt right. When I masturbate I usually need to think of being abused, used or humiliated in order to get off.

And while I’m on the topic of BDSM, let me clarity my feelings on it. I don’t think that practicing D/s, power exchange, role-play, bondage, or kink in general is in itself a symptom of sex addiction. I know many non-sexaddicted, healthy people who are a part of the lifestyle. Being a submissive was a big part of my sexuality for many years, and it might still be, once I get back into the world of relationships. As I progress in my sobriety, though, D/s does seem to be losing some of it’s appeal. Right now the idea of eventually having a healthy partnership with an equal is more attractive than the idea of having a Dom.