It has been an annoyingly challenging week. I’ve questioned recovery and I’ve questioned my own sanity, several times. I haven’t had a week like this in at least six months. I guess the insanity started at work on Wednesday, where I was asked to do slightly too much and ended up doing what I usually do: I stropped out. I wasn’t a nice person to be around all of Wednesday and most of Thursday. I was in a foul mood, indefensibly rude to my colleagues and some of my friends outside. I’m desperate for it to be next Thursday, when I am due to fly to New York. I don’t want to have to go through the rest of this week first. I was born impatient, and that never shows more than when I am under pressure.
Unfortunately but rather predictably, I ended up at home on my own Thursday night, caught in the desperate desire to act out. After consuming a full tub of Ben & Jerry’s, thinking I was giving myself a treat after a hard day, I switched on the computer and went straight to my favourite porn website, stayed up til 2 in the morning even though it was a school night. I needed to chase that fix; I was prepared to take my time in doing it.
Until Thursday night I had been abstinent from compulsive masturbation and internet pornography for nearly two months. The last time I used porn I had been clean for a similar amount of time. It seems I can only get to six weeks before I get bored of abstinence, and I go straight back to where I was, casting all knowledge of the inevitable consequences out of my mind on the way.
It would be OK if I could use porn sensibly – if I could just take it or leave it like most people – but at the moment I can’t. When I start to use it I want more and more, just like I did when I drank. The scenarios I get fixated on in my favourite pornographic clips are unhealthy, fetishistic and incredibly dark. About as unspiritual as you can get. That is why I finally have to accept my powerlessness over this part of my addiction, if I want to continue in recovery.
I’m right in the middle of step 1 with my SAA sponsor at the moment, and it is fucking hard work. I can’t lie to myself any more about the possibility of porn, fetishistic sex, unsafe sex, fantasy and fixation being a part of a healthy, recovered life. There is no possibility. Fixating on that kind of dark fantasy doesn’t do my self esteem any good. And it makes me really angry, because the thought of giving it up terrifies me.
I’ve been taken by surprise with the force of my addiction this week. It can’t be a coincidence that beginning to work the first step on this stuff happened at the same time as a tenfold increase in my desire to act out sexually. When I was in the thick of addictive obsession on Thursday night the thought to take a drink crossed my mind momentarily, and it didn’t repulse me as much as it normally would. I guess I realised at that moment that if I am going to continue to use sex as a quick fix, then there is essentially no point in me staying sober.
I was deeply ashamed to have to face my sponsor with all of this stuff today, but I knew I had no choice. I had to be honest with him about the fact that I’m not sure whether I want to give all of this stuff up and do the rest of the steps. The fact is that I was using sex long before I ever picked up a drink nearly nine years ago. I was isolating in my bedroom, wanking almost constantly to ease the pain of the emptiness, from the age of fourteen onwards.
The reason I’m struggling to let go of that behaviour now is that I just don’t know what to replace it with. Having used the fantasy of unavailable men in magazines and porn videos to comfort myself since such a young age, I don’t know if I’m capable of replacing it. My sponsor keeps saying that the steps will help me to find the answers, if I can remain patient. But I’ve already described myself as innately impatient. I want God to show up and fill the gaping hole in my soul right now, because I don’t know if I can go even a day without my quick fix.
Nonetheless I’ve told my sponsor that I will continue with the process of working the steps, as I am quite aware of the fact that I will die a spiritual death if I don’t. The choice between the twelve steps and active addiction isn’t really a choice. I chose spirituality for life when I put down the drink three years ago. Now I have to choose it again.
It’s all the same addiction, I know that now. Not having a sponsor for most of last year allowed my alcoholism to go untreated; I didn’t want to drink so the illness grabbed hold of sex and food as another method of treatment. I remembered today that when I was doing the steps the first time round, none of this was a problem. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that sex and food binges became the new symptom of my spiritual disease. Coincidence? I think not.
I’m not expecting to do the steps and then find the man of my dreams who will make addiction obsolete in my life from there on in. When I did the steps before I had no expectation of my dreams all coming true, and by the end of my first step 12 I couldn’t say I was living the fantasy life of my child self. But in a strange way, a lot of prayers were answered. Prayers I never knew I had prayed for. You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need. I’m still petrified of what I’m going to find after I’ve done the steps again, and I can’t really believe that I will be happier in a year or so from now. But today I want to find out, more than I did yesterday.