My Story: The Mighty
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My life before
I was addicted to promiscuous homosexual behavior for 14 years (ages 21 to 35) and to pornography for 20 years (starting at age 16). I lived a secret double life while married with children and serving as a lay elder in my church. Like many "married homosexuals," I was in the gay underground more than the "gay mainstream." I met partners at porno stores, parks, etc. I tried desperately to stop but didn't seem to have the ability. I always returned to my "sex drug," even though I promised myself a hundred times or more that I would stop.
Where the struggle came from
In the process of my recovery, I uncovered seven major areas that together caused me to feel alienated from men, yet starved for their attention and affection, and subsequently to become addicted to seeking it out that longed for affirmation sexually -- the only way I knew how to get it, until my recovery began.
One pyschologist characterizes this as a "conspiracy of factors" that combine to create a fertile feeding ground for homosexual problems. One or two or even three of them without the others might not have caused the problem. The seven areas are:
1. my in-born sensitivity to criticism from others, especially an excessive sensitivity to my mother's judgment of me and keen desire for her approval.
2. problems in my relationship with my mother, stemming from my perception that she thought girls were better than boys, that boys were dirty and wild and that sexuality of any kind was tremendously shameful. As a result, Idiscovered that I had taken on a great deal of shame about being male and having male sex organs. At the same time, I also saw my mother as having more masculine traits -- primarily personal strength -- than my father, whom she seemed to dominate.
3. problems in my relationship with my father. I perceived him as very kind and gentle but weak, effeminate, distant, disinterested, and controlled by my mother. As a result, I rejected him as a male role model.
4. problems in my relationships with male peers. I always felt safer playing with girls. Boys frightened me. I didn't understand how to play their games or how to be a rough-and-tumble boy. This reached a crisis level during junior high and high school P.E. classes when I lived in near-constant fear and shame. I felt attacked and abused. These relationship problems and fears continued up to and including my mission for my church, which added much my negative experiences with other males than positive.
5. anti-male messages I picked up in the feminist pop culture of the '70s. I further distanced myself from maleness and began to believe it was the root of all evil.
6. As a result of all of these problems, I sought solace in pornography, starting from the age of about 15 or 16. I became immediately addicted. Pornography gave me a sexual fantasy "drug" to escape momentarily from the fear and shame and confustion I constantly struggled with. At first my interest was in heterosexual pornography, but I soon discovered -- to my horror and excitement -- that I was much more drawn to the men in the pictures than the women. My attention soon turned almost exclusively to the men. If I didn't feel "man enough" in my life, at least I could inhale the masculinity of the men in the pictures and pretend I was desirable to them.
7. My shame and distrust of all others. I didn't dare ask for help, as I feared I would literally die if anyone knew not only what I had done but who I was inside.
My life now
What's changed: everything. My sexual behavior, sexual identity, my view of myself as a man, my view of other men, my ability to trust and reach out to other men. After 14 years of trying in vain to stop, I now have been free of homosexual sex for more than 2½ years (as of March 2000). I have a solid identity as a heterosexual man. I have overcome a lifetime of shame as a male and fear and distrust of other men. I have the most positive friendships with other heterosexual men that I've ever had in my life. They give me a great deal of masculine affirmation and more joy than I ever imagined while I was pursuing fulfillment through sex. I actually feel an increased attraction to men -- but it's de-eroticized. Instead of sexual attraction, it's spiritual and emotional attraction. It's a masculine connection and affinity with the world of men that I never experienced before. I no longer feel rejected by men or isolated from the male world.
How I got here from there
It all started with hope -- by meeting others who had overcome this and hearing their stories. Believing at last that it was possible (1997). My healing came about in four interwoven areas simultaneously:
1. "The Inner Man" -- strengthening my self identity as a man, overcoming shame, facing my fears and coming out of the secret.
2. "Man to Man" -- learning to trust and build friendships with other men and to fulfill my need for male affirmation and love through righteous, close friendships with heterosexual men.
3. "Man Among Men" -- overcoming my fear, distrust, and dislike of men generally and learning to fully embrace the masculine world.
4. "Man of God" -- putting my life in the hands of God, submitting my will to him and trusting Him enough to submissively following the healing path He would take me on.
What I did
1. Surrendered my will to God and became willing to do whatever it took even if it meant others finding out. (As long as my first priority was keeping the secret, and the second priority was change, I made no progress.)
2. Enjoyed the complete support of my wife and her encouragement for me to turn over every stone in my search for healing.
3. 2½ years of weekly reparative therapy (1997-99) uncovering and healing the roots of my pain -- the problems that were causing me to act out.
4. 14 months of group reparative therapy (1997-98) to learn how to trust, share and relate to other men.
5. Confession to my church leaders followed by excommunication (1997) and rebaptism (1999), which caused me to "come out" of my secret double life and become a man of integrity for the first time in 14 years.
6. Initiated a powerful relationship with a spiritual and emotional mentor, a concerned, loving, candid and available "older brother" from my church (1997-ongoing).
7. Three years of "bibliotherapy," reading everything I could get my hands on about overcoming homosexual feelings and behavior, about strengthening one's masculine identity and about men in general.
8. Learned to trust another friend by asking him to coach me in basketball and subsequently sharing my struggle with him (1997-98).
9. A spiritual epiphany in March 1998 in which my shame of being male and my fear of other men both fell away and were replaced with a love of men and maleness that washed over me with profound impact and changed my world view.
10. New Warrior Training Adventure (1998) and follow-up Integration Group (1998-ongoing), through which I gained a sense of being a man among men and belonging to a trusted community.
11. Participated in an e-mail support group called Disciples2 (1997-ongoing) as well as three Evergreen conferences in Salt Lake City for men and women overcoming homosexual problems (1997-99).
12. Participation in a 12-Step program for sex addicts, Sexaholics Anonymous (1997-99).
13. Additional friendships, including a man I mentored through his initial recovery from (heterosexual) sex addiction.
What I learned in the process
1. I learned I absolutely could not change in secrecy. Confession and accountability were critical to my healing. Humility was an absolute prerequisite.
2. I learned I absolutely needed a mentor (or two or three) -- a man who was much stronger than I (meaning he didn't face this same struggle, or had already overcome it) -- a man with whom I could share everything, all of my struggle, on a daily basis if needed. A man who would hold me accountable, who would challenge me spiritually, who would help me see reality, help me stay grounded, listen to my tears and my fears and help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. God led me to three such mentors in this journey, one a therapist, two others were priesthood holders whom I approached and asked for help.
3. I learned to stop trying to STOP old behaviors and instead START new ones that REPLACED the old and FULFILLED the real need much more authentically than sex ever could -- namely, to reach out to men authentically, preemptively if possible.
4. I learned that I never had to act out again if I could learn to pick up the phone and call a mentor and ask for help and connect authentically instead -- in my moment of crisis, not after the fact. I learned to turn to other men's strength when I lacked my own and ask them to help talk me down off my lust high and connect me back with reality.
5. I learned I needed to trust God and believe his promises and stop believing the lie that my particular condition was somehow the one exception in all the world to the Gospel truths about sin and repentance and change and justice and mercy. I gained a strong testimony of Gospel truths about homosexuality as taught in the "Proclamation on the Family" and other inspired writings. For me, therapy with an LDS therapist combined with Joe Nicolosi's book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, and Jason Park's book, Resolving Homosexual Problems: A Guide for LDS Men, led me into the truth that I was not "born that way" but rather was socialized that way. I learned that change was possible by healing the real pain underneath the lust. This powerful testimony gave me hope and a path to follow.
6. I learned I absolutely needed to dig underneath the surface behavior and deal with the pain that was causing me to act out, to lust after and yet fear men. As long as I dealt only with the surface behavior, the problems always came back. For me, reparative therapy with a kind yet challenging therapist who was experienced with this issue -- indeed, who had been through it himself -- and knew that change was possible has been paramount to my healing. Underneath the lust for men I discovered: tremendous shame for being male and having a male body; a terrible fear of men; a deep sense of inadequacy and self-criticism over my perceived lack of masculinity -- and thus a great longing to be with men and to be loved and accepted by them.
7. I learned to see myself and other men in an entirely new light, the Light of Christ. As I began to heal these open wounds through therapy and turning my heart to God, the Lord changed my heart. In particular, over a two day period in March 1998, I felt the shame of maleness and fear of men fall from me like a shedding skin, and in its place a light turning on in my soul giving me a great "testimony" of masculinity, of the goodness of maleness, of the rightness of my being male. All at once, it seemed, I felt connected to the male world, that I belonged in the world of men at last! I felt whole! This feeling has been reinforced again and again over the ensuing months. I see men so differently now. I notice them, perhaps more than ever, but it is no longer with lust. It is no longer with fear. It is with appreciation, enjoyment, admiration, a great sense of brotherly love. It is with a joyful sense of identity and connection that was once completely foreign. This more than anything explains how I feel different now. I see myself differently. I see others differently.
8. I learned that MEN FEEL! That men have feelings, hurts, wounds, shame. I learned they are real. I learned that I am not different from them at all, as I had always believed. I learned I can trust them. I gained this from honest friendships, from group therapy but most significantly from a men's retreat I went to in August 1998 called the New Warrior Training Adventure Weekend. It brought 30 men together, under the guidance of 30 mentors, to examine their lives and determine "what wasn't working" in them. I was stunned to see the depth of feeling in the hearts of men I'd always seen as so cold and hard. To see the demons that this circle of straight men battled. It was a window inside men's souls unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I began to trust and open up more than ever.
9. I learned that I need good men in my life, to build friendships with them, to challenge each other, to play together, to be accountable to, to be real with. I learned that I absolutely could not change in a vacuum, that unless I filled my need for masculine strength with healthy friendships with righteous men, my heart would sooner or later demand that I fill that need any way possible -- sexually if necessary.
10. I learned that I can have friendships with men, that men do in fact need each other. l learned that when I feel righteous brotherly love for and from men I feel more whole and joyous than anything I ever experienced with men sexually. At the best of times, the joy practically jumps out of my heart and out of my chest until I can touch it.
11. I learned that this is a long, difficult, sometimes painful journey with incredible lows and highs that takes months or years, not days or weeks - but that the DESTINATION is one of joy and wholeness much more satisfying than my lust addiction ever was. I found love for men and maleness and myself as a man that is spiritual and righteous and more profound than anything I ever found in Satan's path. For me, it is the most worthwhile thing I have ever done.
12. I learned that God loves me and is absolutely willing to forgive me and have me back if I turn my heart to him and become willing to do whatever he asks.
Lastly, let me share what I gained from my experience with church discipline:
1. Confession broke the "power of the secret" that gave my addiction its force; it collapsed my double life (sex addict / priesthood leader) into a single, unified life of a repentant and recovering sex addict who is a humble, true disciple of Christ.
2. Confession made me right with God for the first time in 14 years.
3. Confession made me a man of integrity and honor for the first time in 14 years.
4. Confession gave my wife faith in my recovery and my commitment to her, to our family and to a righteous life. Confession put our marriage on a healing path.
5. Excommunication knocked me soundly off the fence of vacillation and caused me to take a long hard look at my life. It made me determine what it is I most want in life and what I was willing to do to get it. It gave me the perfect opportunity to walk away from the Church and throw myself into a sinful life if I wanted -- and to prove to myself that I absolutely did not want that.
6. Excommunication made my healing and recovery become the most urgent priority in my life. Recovery became all encompassing.
7. Excommunication broke my pride and gave me the opportunity to reach out to other men to ask for help, to build a support network and new friendships.
8. Excommunication gave me a tangible goal to work toward: baptism and reinstatement of my priesthood and temple blessings.
9. Excommunication put me into a relationship with a "spiritual mentor," a priesthood leader who counseled me and befriended me -- the most meaningful relationship I've ever had with any man in my life.
10. Not partaking of the bread and water made the sacrament a more spiritual, repentant time for me than it ever was when I partook unworthily.
11. Not having a Church calling gave me more time for my recovery program, which has been extremely time-intensive, what with individual counseling, group counseling, time with my mentor, building new friendships and a network of, reading recovery literature, scripture reading, prayer, working out -- whew! I could not have done all this if I'd had a demanding Church calling. And I needed this so much more than a calling.
12. Having a reprieve from paying tithing helped me afford $400 a month or more for individual and group therapy.
13. Excommunication helped me understand covenants and prepare myself to keep them.
14. Excommunication gave me the opportunity to be baptized again and start fresh in a new life.
15. Excommunication was part of a life-transforming process that saved my life, saved my family, and saved my soul.