If you’d asked me a few years back to describe what a sex addict looked like, I would never have described someone like myself. For all outward appearances I had everything that typically goes along with being successful. Fancy office, fancier car, beautiful house, amazing wife and kids.
I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, growing up in a pretty well-to-do family who expected the absolute best of me at all times. I still remember the feeling of shame I would get whenever I did something less than perfect as a kid. I don’t blame my folks for how I got here, they were hardworking people just doing their best, but that meant they were pretty emotionally unavailable most of the time, so life was pretty lonely.
If I fast forward to my early forties, I can see now how that sense of shame was still haunting me when I didn’t live up to my own high expectations; whether that be at work, in my marriage or as a father. As I gained more professional seniority, the travel and client entertainment components of my job started to increase quite a bit. I was always a pretty big social drinker, but I think it probably all started when I began doing cocaine with my colleagues on trips away. My wife had no idea, and I guess in a way it felt a bit like ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour’, being so far away from home, it was almost like I wasn’t doing anything wrong, as long as I didn’t do it back home in my ‘real life’.
It went on for quite a few years this way, but things started escalating when I started needing to use more often. A few drinks after work with the team would end with a call to my dealer, and gradually, this just became the norm. I couldn’t socialise without it, and I was constantly lying to my wife about needing to be out at work functions, when the truth was I could have actually been at home with her. The company I was keeping wasn’t good for me either, and eventually it escalated from frequenting strip clubs to using escorts on those nights out and during the work trips. It started as a sort of comradery thing with the other guys, but when I ended up using drugs and calling escorts on my own, things had gotten bad. By this stage, ‘typical’ sexual encounters just weren’t cutting it any more, and I needed more and more extreme encounters to feel anything.
When my wife found out, she was totally blind sighted. She had had no idea about any of it, and understandably, she was completely betrayed. But when I moved out of the home I’d built with her I was lonelier than ever, and my behaviour just got worse. I got more and more into debt as I sought connections with people who I could contact, who would come and see me straight away, and spend time with me with no judgement. When I was with those other women during this time I’d feel a sense of power and status returning for a brief moment, but the shame afterwards was all consuming. Eventually the money ran out. I was supporting my habits, and paying for two homes. I managed to keep my job, but I was on thin ice. So I turned to using porn. To be honest, it suited me better. I could stay holed up in my apartment, not hurting anyone. I totally retreated from everything and avoided everyone.
I lost the home I’d built, and my relationship. Honestly, I couldn’t see a reason to keep going with any of it. I barely recognised the person I had become. In the end, it was actually a friend who opened up to me about his own struggles, and suggested I go to a SLAA meeting with him. I had no idea that he was a part of the recovery community, but suddenly, knowing this made me feel less disgusting and less broken, because he’s someone I really look up to. It was at that meeting that I heard about South Pacific Private for the first time, and I thought, if this is what might help me get my kids back in my life, and if there’s a chance that my relationship with my wife could heal just a bit, then I’d give it a go.
That day walking into South Pacific Private was probably my rock bottom. All the beliefs I had held about needing to be exceptional, and perfect, were suddenly thrown into the bin when I realised that I was so far from what I thought I was. The shame was so bad that I wanted to turn around and leave straight away, go back to my sad existence and not bother anyone anymore. But the thought of going back there was scarier than staying and facing what had happened, and so I stuck it out.
I threw everything I could into it. I helped out in the community, I went to every lecture, and I completed every day program I could after I left treatment to make sure I wouldn’t slip up again. It’s not easy stuff. I thought that those five weeks in South Pacific Private were going to be the hardest part of this journey, that I just needed to do the course, and get out and get back to where I used to be, but I’ve started to learn that life doesn’t roll that way. I don’t need to be the best at everything, and that includes being in recovery. I just need to take it one day at a time, and make sure I build connections with people that support me in getting better. I read everything I can, I share my story with people, and I make meetings a priority. Because I know how easy it will be to fall back into old patterns. That’s the thing that terrifies me most. So I devote my days to getting better, before anything else, including work or my kids, because I’m nothing to them if I go back.
South Pacific Private is proud to be leading the way in the treatment of sex and porn addiction in Australia, and is currently taking expressions of interest for our next Men’s Intensive Relapse Prevention Program. If you or someone you know is struggling with sex or porn addiction, take a free self-assessment or call our Intake Team on 1800 063 332 to learn how South Pacific Private can help.
*Tom is an amalgam of client stories to protect the identity of the authors.