An Ode to My Second Favorite Gender

lossy-page1-769px-Oakland,_California._Hanging_Around._The_total_time_spent_in_actual_interviews_while_hunting_a_job_takes_only_a_small..._-_NARA_-_532235.tifI love men. Like, I fucking love them. And not in the way that I used to “love” men, either. Because, as it turns out, wanting someone is not the some as loving someone. Longing for isn’t the same as respecting, using is different from cherishing, and objectifying doesn’t equal accepting.

One of the gifts of my recovery is the relationships I have developed with the brothers in my program. For the first time in maybe ever, I am able to actually see men as fellow human beings. I honestly used to think that men didn’t have feelings, or at least they didn’t experience them nearly as deeply or as much as women did. And I was so jealous. I wanted to be an iron wall. I wanted to fuck without consequence, to go through life without pain, be able to use, walk away and never look back. This is what I perceived the male experience to be. Then I started going to meetings. I heard men (old men, young men, tall men, short men, handsome men, less conventionally attractive men, gay men, straight men) tell my story. Time and time again, I would set aside my preconceived notions and listen. What I heard shook up everything I thought I knew.

Last week some douchebag did something douchey. Go figure, right? For a moment, though, I forgot all I’ve learned about men on this journey. I thought, is this is what dudes are REALLY like? Some old prejudices temporarily stepped back into my head. Fuck those misogynistic, hateful dickbags overcompensating for their obvious shortcomings. They can all go sit and spin, I thought.

Last night I went to a fellowship party and hung out with my friends. My friends who now include both men and women. This snapped me back into reality. I had a blast. I’m so blessed to have these awesome guys (and girls) in my life. Guys who, no matter how hot they might be, I will never want to sleep with. Guys who, no matter how kind and gentle, or rich they are, I will never ask to rescue me or to take care of me. Genuine friends.

Being a male and being an asshole aren’t mutually exclusive. There are tons of assholes of both genders in the world and on the internet, that’s just life. What I’ve discovered in the past year and a half, though, is that the amount of awesome, genuine people far outweigh the amount of dickheads. I thank God that I am now able to go though life with an open mind and an open heart and that I am now able to love and see love all around me.

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A New Year In Recovery

I remember this time two years ago, January 2011. A guy I met, who I would later end up sleeping with asked if I had any new year’s resolutions. I jokingly told him, “I want to make sure I can actually keep my resolutions this year, so I’m resolving to drink more and to have more casual sex.” Pathetically, I thought this line was so cute and clever, that I used it a few other times that month on other men.

Ironically, I ended up breaking that resolution less than six months later, in June 2011, when I went into recovery for sex and love addiction.

Before that time I had such resistance to 12-step programs. I had even looked up statistics about their failure rates, and would cite then whenever 12-step groups came up in conversation. “Those people are just trading one addiction for another. They might no longer be addicted to drugs or alcohol, but they are addicted to meetings.” Years and years before I had spent a few months in OA (Overeaters Anonymous). At the time, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. Although I was (and still am) overweight, I couldn’t relate to the obsession with food and the extreme body hatred. In fact, being in those meetings triggered more issues with food and body image than I came in with.

Soon after my OA stint I went to my first meeting of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. At the beginning of the meeting, someone read The Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction. I had all twelve. Every share at that meeting, I could relate to. There was no way getting around it, I belonged at that meeting. So I went to a few more, but then I used my best worst thinking and determined that finding someone else to obsess over was a much easier way to get over whomever he was.

A couple of years later, after I had dropped close to 3 grand on a psychic that promised to reunite me with my “one true soulmate,” I was at a bottom and dragged myself to a couple more meetings. Again, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, but didn’t want to believe it. Instead of sticking around and waiting for the miracle, I chose my tried and true method for getting over an ex — getting under someone else. After that I put my heart in soul into acting out. I thought I was “cured” from love addiction because I went a few years without getting obsessed with any of the guys I was seeing. And as for the sex addiction? I was just a young, adventurous, open-minded woman, with an active social life, not a sex addict.

Then I met HC. I knew minutes after meeting him that I was fucked. Something in him triggered a chemical reaction in me that was like I had just shot myself up with heroin. Being with him was absolute ecstasy and I was instantly addicted. When I finally decided to get clean from HC, I knew I could not do it alone. I was desperate and fully recognized how absolutely powerless I was over my addiction to him.

Six months. Six months. Six months! That was the mantra that was going through my head all of the summer of 2011. I promised myself this time I would stick it out and go to meetings for six months, that I wouldn’t contact HC for six months, and that I wouldn’t date anyone for six months. I had many fantasies about what would happen at the end of those six months. Most of them involved HC realizing he missed me and couldn’t live without me. The rest imagined me meeting my future husband six months and one day later. All of them involved me being 100 percent better and living a life that was entirely problem free.

A year and a half later, and my life is far from perfect. It is nothing like I imagined it would be, but it is amazing. My life is filled with joy, love, and acceptance. I’m so grateful and so happy to be celebrating a new year in recovery.

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.

When Fantasy Becomes Reality

Several months back, I wrote about my friend Ben. Only I didn’t call him Ben at the time, I gave him the highly inappropriate nickname of Mr. FCFW. For those of you who don’t feel like clicking the link, here is the quick backstory: Ben is a seemingly confident, well-off, older, charming man I had a brief fling with, despite knowing he was married. After the fling we developed a friendship.

When I wrote that post back in November, I was still pretty new in my recovery. Ben was someone I talked to a lot, even though I realized it was inappropriate. I now know that I was doing with him was called “intrigue,” which basically means I was trying to keep him interested, just in case. After I wrote about him, I ended up talking to him less and less. I never consciously decided to pull away from him, but as I got healthier and healthier the schism naturally occurred.

I hadn’t talked to him in months, so it was odd to see a text message from him last week when I was getting ready for work. Odder still, was the content of the message, “I need help.” The first thing I thought was that someone had stolen his cell phone, and was texting everyone in his address book in some attempt to scam money. That far-fetched scenario sounded more probable to me, than confident, self-assured, has-everything-going-for-him Ben actually needing my help with anything.

“What’s going on?” I texted back.

“My wife found out everything. I’m out of control. I need help. What do I do?”

Let me pause this story in order to briefly tell another one.

When I first started in recovery I fantasized about this very thing happening for months. Only I wasn’t fantasizing about Ben, I was fantasizing about HC, another married man who I was completely, devastatingly, irrationally fixated on. HC is the reason I started coming to 12-step meetings. He was pretty much all I talked about in meetings for the first few months, and almost all I wrote about when I first started this blog. I was OBSESSED.

The fantasy was that HC’s wife would find out he had been cheating on her throughout the entire course of their marriage. He’d realize he had a problem with sex addiction. He’d contact me for help. I’d tell him about the program I’m in. We’d started going to meetings together, and then when we were both fully recovered, he’d realize he was in love with me and we’d live happily ever after. Totally healthy little fantasy. Also, totally probable, right?

I feel awful for this, but when Ben sent me that text, my thoughts weren’t, “I feel so terrible for Ben and his family,” they were “ohmygodohmygod it’s finally happening!!!” The addict in me didn’t even care that it was happening to the wrong person, I was just so excited it was happening. I hate admitting this, but I got a major buzz off of the drama. Ben’s life was falling apart, and I was getting a contact high.

My addict wanted to jump in, and save the day. Fix all of Ben’s problems for him. Make his drama my drama. But I took a step back and realized that this reaction I was having was nothing but addiction. Is there such thing as a drama addict? Yes, and you’re reading one’s blog.

Once I had gotten ahold of myself we talked on the phone. My addict wanted to tell him to start coming to SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) meetings with me; wanted to tell him that I would take him to a meeting, but instead I told him to look up  another S-program, Sex Addicts Anonymous. There is some crossover in my area between these two programs, and I’ve heard that SAA is almost 100 percent men, and many of them are married and trying to save their marriage. The program I attend is both men and women, most of whom are single. I also told him to call a marriage counselor. My addict wanted to look up the meeting schedule and send it to him, as well as look up a list of therapy referrals. But my authentic self stepped in and said, “Come on Imperfect, he can google just as well as you can. Back off!”

So I pointed Ben in the right direction, but kept my distance. My addict wanted to call him later that day to see how he was doing, but my authentic self told her to chill. Ben called me the next day to tell me he attended his first meeting and we talked about it. He sent me a text yesterday and told me he was in therapy and had started reading Patrick Carnes’ book on sexual addiction, Out of the Shadows.  His life is in a lot of turmoil, but I trust that if he continues on this path, he’ll be okay. I don’t need to rescue Ben, just like I don’t need anyone to rescue me. That’s the beauty of surrendering to a Higher Power. I know it will all be okay.

Acceptance is the Answer

From page 417 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He forgot to mention that I was the chief critic. I was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation. And I was always glad to point it out, because I knew you wanted perfection, just as I did. A.A. and acceptance have taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here. When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God’s handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God.

Relapse

A few weeks ago I broke the one bottom-line that I’d kept for nearly eight months — no sexual activity outside of a committed relationship. I did this with my friend Carson. Carson is a good man, but so lost in his own untreated addictions that he’s not a suitable partner.

I’m not sure how to even write about this. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing about it at all, yet. I want to write, “I am recovering from a relapse,” but a more accurate statement would probably be, “I am attempting to recover from a relapse.”

I’m still committed to SLAA, the program of recovery I’ve been a member of for the past nine months. I’m still going to meetings, going to fellowship, talking with my sponsor, working the steps, and still doing top-line behaviors every day. According to this program, “The only requirement for SLAA membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction.” I still have this desire, now more than ever, yet the words attributed to St. Augustine keep coming to mind, “Dear God, grant me chastity and continence… but not yet.”

I know how pointless it is to look for solace and salvation in the arms of a lover, particularly this lover. I know, but I still want.

The Psychic

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know all about the obsession I had with HC. This fixation was the catalyst that drove me to join SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous), but it was by no means the first time I’d became hung-up on a lover. Also, my obsession with HC was kind of obsession-lite, compared to the ones that had come before it.

A few years prior, I’d been involved in a Dom/sub relationship with Anthony, a man 21 years my senior. Although, we were never monogamous (at the time Anthony described himself as “poly”), it was a fairly significant relationship… for me, at least. We dated for about six-months, and it was more than just a sex. Anthony was there when I needed a friend, something I wasn’t used to from the men I usually slept with. After I got in a car accident on the freeway and totaled my car, he showed up on the scene to make sure I was ok. He told me later that he’d been on a date when I texted him and left early. Anthony helped me when I needed help, and got involved in all areas of my life — even meeting some of my friends. Maybe he did all of this because he was really into me, maybe it was because he liked the drama, or maybe it was a combination of both.

Anthony also had a high tolerance for crazy. I brought the crazy harder than I had ever brought it before, or since. I set up fake accounts on the dating site we were on and pretended to be other people in order to extract information from him. Then I would confront him with the information I’d found. I would insult the other women he was dating. I would throw tantrums. Now, I realize what I was doing — testing how much I could get away with, how much he really cared; and at the same time subconsciously pushing him away, acting out the pattern that started with my father leaving me (through his death) in my childhood. For whatever reason, Anthony was willing to put up with a lot so my craziness progressed to full-on bat-shit insanity. Eventually he reached his limit and suggested we take a break.

Around this time I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted to visit a psychic. I was feeling kind of lost. I didn’t have a full time job and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was even debating going back to grad school. I wanted someone to guide me and tell me what I was supposed to be doing with my life. What I really needed was to turn the reigns over to my Higher Power and let him guide me, but I hadn’t realized that yet.

I wanted to go to a legit psychic, someone who had a real gift and would give me the answers I needed. I went online and tried to find reviews of psychics in my area.  I found a lot of information on a psychic named Lillian. She had positive reviews on City Search, and yellowpages.com (this was before Yelp was big). She also had a website rife with grammar and spelling errors (everything on her website is “copy write of Lillian the Psychic,” for example). But, I figured, I was going to her  for psychic guidance, not editing services so it didn’t matter. She also had a lot of bullshit on there like “Voted #1 Psychic in the State” and “Licensed, bonded, and certified,” without saying whom it was voting, licensing, bonding and certifying her. By the way, did I ever tell you that I was voted “Number #1 Blogger on WordPress”? It’s true.* This stuff should have given me pause, but Lillian had a coupon on her site. I’m a sucker for a bargain so I dragged my friend Marie over and we each got a reading.

My reading didn’t exactly blow me away, at first. She said a lot of vague things that she could probably tell just by talking with me for a few minutes — that I’m creative, intuitive, good with people, etc. She said a few other things I’ve forgotten. The only specific thing she told me was that I would die at 86, and it’s not like that one can be proven anytime soon.  Then she said I had just ended a relationship, but would eventually get back together with that person, because that person was my “one, true soulmate”. Now, that caught my attention. Almost as an aside, she mentioned that she could help me speed things along, if I wanted.

Marie went next and I remember her reading being more specific than mine.  Lillian said that Marie would have a fatty tumor removed in a year and a half. Marie was about to start a new job, and Lillian told her that her soulmate would be someone she would meet not at this new job, but at the job she would get after this one. Marie, who is a healthy skeptic wasn’t impressed by her reading. She had mainly gone along to keep me company. I, on the other hand, was totally buzzed by the thought that I would soon be getting back with Anthony.

A few days later, I took my friend Allison to see Lillian. Allison and I had a lot in common when it came to sex and love issues. At the time Allison was obsessing over some dude and whether or not she should move for school, which would put her closer to this guy. I don’t remember exactly what Lillian told Allison, but she was convinced Lillian was legit.

That  one vote of confidence was all I needed. So I told Lillian I wanted to “speed things along” with Anthony. The way it worked is that she would get this special candle, imprint Anthony’s and my names and our dates of birth on it, and meditate every night on it until we were together. Then she gave me a candle and anointed it with special oil. She said that I was to light the candle every night, meditate, and visualize Anthony and I being together. Then at the end of each visualization session, I should leave a message on her voice mail to let her know I’d done it. Lillian said she would do all of this for free, because she believed in true love, but she needed money to buy this special candle, which cost $200. She said that Anthony and I would be back together in a few weeks.

Of course, I gave her the money. I mean, $200 for “happily ever after” is nothing.  To start, I went back to her office the next day, where she turned off the lights, lit some candles and incense, had me lay back and close my eyes, and anointed my forehead with oil. She stood over me and prayed, or something… maybe went through my purse, who knows. Right when I closed my eyes I had a moment of What the fuck are you doing, girl? You need to get out of here fast! (bitch was right about me being intuitive), but I dismissed this warning voice, and let this woman do her thing.

I should probably mention that Lillian’s office was decorated with a lot of Catholic imagery — statues of the Virgin Mary, saint candles, crucifixes, etc. She sprinkled her psychic bullshit with a lot of religious talk. She spoke about her church and acted the part of the pious Catholic. While I am not a pious Catholic, I do come from a Catholic background. Believing Lillian to be a devoted follower of the church I had grown up in, I trusted her.

Every night I would light my candle, and sit and meditate, visualizing Anthony and me together. I honestly think if it wasn’t for this nightly exercise, I probably would have been okay. I would have been obsessed with Anthony for a month or so, then I would have met some other dude and gotten over it. Wash, rinse, repeat. Not saying that would have been right, but it would have been okay. Telling a love addict to participate in a nightly ritual visualizing her and her ex back together is a recipe for some bad, bad shit.

After a couple of weeks of this practice, Lillian told me she wanted to hold another session with me. It would be free, of course (bitch knew how to work the long con). Again, when I closed my eyes, that warning voice came back. Get out of here, right now! Again, I dismissed it as paranoia. After this “prayer session” Lillian told me that things were going well. In fact, Anthony had had a dream about me the other night. Her meditations were working, and I was on his mind. There was a problem, though. For whatever reason, there was some dark energy that was blocking us. At this time, it had been more than a month since I had last seen Anthony. I’d heard that Anthony was now seeing one woman exclusively. I was sick with jealousy and desperate to remove this block Lillian spoke of. She said in order to do it, she need to purchase these two specially charged crystals that cost $1,500 each, for a grand total of $3,000. I told her there was no way I could afford $3,000. She said that it was the only way we could ever be together and she would try to work something out.

A few days later, Lillian called me and said that she had gotten the price down from her supplier. The price was still more than I could afford. Then she said that she believed in this relationship so much, that she would dip into her own money to help me buy the crystals. I’m ashamed to say that I wrote Lillian a check for $1,500 to buy the two crystals. This was more than my rent money.

We went through the whole process again — the nightly meditations, checking in with her, one-on-one sessions, etc. for maybe another week or two. Can you guess what happened next? Lillian said that the block was stronger than she had initially thought, and she needed another outrageous sum of money to buy some more shit to remove the block. I was so sick with my addiction to Anthony that I briefly considered trying to raise the funds, but I also started looking into her claims. I went to a Wiccan shop and talked to the woman that worked there. The woman told me that I had been the victim of a common scam. According to her, the city was full of these fake psychics shops. Many of these “psychics” would come to her shop, she claimed, to get their auras cleansed after conning people out of thousands of dollars. I also did some research online. If you’re interested, google “psychic gypsy scams.” I found account, after account that told my story with Lillian, almost verbatim.

Lillian is still in business. Her shop is on a main street, and I have to drive by it often. Every time I do, I fantasize about throwing a brick through her big picture window, something I would never actually do. I googled Lillian’s real name — I give everyone I mention on this blog pseudonyms — which I’m sure is a fake name (wrap your head around that one), and the name of her business. She now has a Facebook page and tons of positive reviews on google, yahoo, and other sites. On Yelp, she has 1 star and all bad reviews, but when you google her, six other links come up before her Yelp listing. I really wish that I could give out Lillian’s real info on here to warn people about her, but that’s not the way this blog works. If you do want to visit a psychic, the best advice I can give you is to stay away from shops and small houses you drive advertising psychic, palm, or tarot readings — businesses that only do readings. A safer bet is to visit a new age or metaphysical bookshop. Most of those places will have a few readers on staff. I guess they could be scam artists too, but from what I’ve heard the storefront psychics are almost exclusively fraudsters.

I debated about telling this story for awhile. I consider myself a shrewd, logical person. The fact that I was conned out of a huge (to me, at least) sum of money due to my love addiction is something I’m extremely ashamed of. But telling these stories is healing for me, and I know there are a lot of other women and men out there who can relate. I still stumble in my recovery, but now I have a relationship with my Higher Power. I used to spend my time obsessing over and trying to change things that were beyond my control. Now I accept the things I cannot change, pray for the courage to change the things I can, and know that God will take care of the rest.

* Voted by members of the Imperfect household: Imperfect and Charlie the Cat.**

**Charlie abstained.

Image via Flickr, by user “Gunshots”