This story begins just a little over 2 months ago... In truth it starts over 25 years ago but that will become more clear as you read.
2 months ago… my wife and I decided to go on a bike ride on a newly finished bike path in town. As we completed our course, She looked at me with fear and pain on her face and quietly asked me “Do you promise me there is nothing going on with you? Do you promise me that note meant nothing? Do you Promise me there is no Alice?”
Instantly I was filled with fear. My first emotion was distress, followed by a sudden crumbling of the world around me and then, believe it or not, relief.
Because, Yes, for the previous 2 months I had been carrying on a relationship with another woman.
Here I was, the beloved father and husband, Priesthood leader, business owner, and trusted friend. And at the same time… the liar, the deceiver, and the adulterer.
The last 2 months had been a challenge. There was so much time spent keeping the lies straight, juggling my time, and covering my tracks. The weight, the guilt, and the pressure were all becoming too much and too impossible to keep up with. So to finally be able to say….”Yes…. I have been having an affair"...well… it was a relief. More of a relief then I would have thought.
Please don’t misunderstand. The feeling of guilt, despair, loss, regret, sorrow and shame... I felt them all…. I will share more about those feelings later. But the immediate release from a dungeon of my own making… that was the overwhelming feeling in that moment.
Even as I sat there listening to my wife screaming the words,”No No No… this can't be happening… No No No…” As she was vocalizing the pain of realizing that the greatest fear of her life had come to pass and visualizing herself alone with the kids, without a husband to provide support, moving to UT to live with family, and leaving me to fend for myself…. at the same time she was searching for the pieces of her newly shattered heart… I was having a release and a lifting of the weight. A lifting of the burden of all the lies, the stress, the deceit, and the darkness that held me bound for more than 25 years of my life.
Yes, 25 years. The affair itself lasted only 2 months, but the addiction that owned me and lies that I had been hiding behind were more than 2 and a half decades old.
My addiction to pornography started when in my teens. That was when the I first recognized the strong, unshakable temptations to view or imagine unseemly images and inappropriate thoughts. As I have reflected on my childhood I have realized so many moments in my life where I let my guard down and allowed myself to linger on thoughts or images. The problem was that no one would ever have suspected or known.
I was the perfect Young Man in the Gospel. I was surrounded by a group of rowdy boys who came from broken homes. I was always the “Good One” in the group. I also came from a broken home but with my mother at the helm, there was no question about it, we were going to live the gospel. And we did. I knew the commandments. I learned my priesthood duties and performed them. I was an example of the perfect young priesthood holder. At home I could be rowdy and disobedient, but no more than most boys. I loved being seen as that ‘good boy’. So I did my part.
I say that I became addicted to pornography in my teens, but my story starts even younger. How much of this story is of interest to the reader, I don’t know. I hope you can find some similarity between your experience and mine. Perhaps you would like me to get to the meat of my issues…. Well… I don’t think it's possible to do that without talking about my childhood. And so, whether this part is of interest to you or not... I am going to write it… because I truly believe that honest and serious self reflection is the only way to recognize the depth of ones addiction. And besides… I find it therapeutic.
My Father was a serial adulterer. He had many affairs over the course of their 19 years of marriage. I have become aware of a few, but I know there were many others. I don’t know much about those affairs. I don’t know if they were one nightstands or long drawn out relationships. I just know that they happened. My Mother first learned of his activities when I was 3 years old. She had discovered some receipts in his office for furniture and later found that he had furnished an apartment across town. Confronted by the proof, he came clean. He insisted he wanted to make it work, but his actions said otherwise as he continued to cheat. 2 years later and pregnant with her 7th child, she finally felt there was no hope that he would ever keep his promises, and filed for divorce.
It was only a few days later that I was informed by my mother that, “Daddy wouldn’t be living with us any more”. When I inquired as to why, the answer came back “Because your daddy doesn’t love me any more”.
And I guess that was all I needed to know. I was 5 years old and 5th of 7 children. After my brief conversation with mom, I went downstairs to discover all of my older siblings weeping in the living room. My younger siblings had no idea what was going. And really, neither did I.
What I did know is that I now only saw dad once a week. People say that divorce is hardest on the youngest in the family. That may be true… all I know is that I loved Wednesday nights.
Wednesday Night was Dads night. Every Wednesday he would come and pick us up and take us to a movie or back to his office to watch a VHS on their new VCR. Sometimes we would go out to dinner, and on a rare occasion, he would rent a motel room at the holiday Inn. All 8 of us would cram in their for the night and swim in the pool and just enjoy some time with Dad. Wednesdays were the high light of our week. You know that song, ‘I'm so Glad when Daddy Comes Home?’... well that was my motto at that time of my life.
Dad was a bit of a workaholic. He was never on time.. in fact it would not be uncommon for him to be more than an hour late to pick us up on his night. It was excruciating waiting.
I have this funny memory of me and my older sister sitting on the curb waiting for dad to arrive. We were so anxious to see him… to be with him… We would look down the street at the head lights as they got closer to us trying to decide if they were the lights from his El Camino.
One other quick memory. Dads office was about 4 miles from the house. On one Wednesday… I thought… "well, Dad is always late… so I will just start walking… and
I'll meet him along the way". I walked the full 4 miles to his office. All along the way I kept thinking… "I'm sure he will pass me and see me and pick me up". When I made it to his office, I found him on the phone, still working. We were late that night too. I remember being scolded by my mom for walking the distance as she was not aware until my dad called her and said..”guess who just showed up?”
Over time it became every other Wednesday and then, Dad decided to try making his living by working in another state and our visits shifted to one week each summer.
I still didn't understand why all of this happened. I didn't understand why my grandpa had to baptize me instead of dad. But I was baptized at 8.
Eventually, that became the norm. Not seeing dad was just how it was… and with Dad gone and not making good on his child support, mom started working and going to school. She relied a lot on my older siblings to make sure that we younger kids were home and safe and looked after while she worked.
As I mentioned before, my mother was determined that we live the gospel and be raised in the church. She struggled as a single mom to both work and be a mother and father. But as difficult as it was, we never missed a week of church. We never missed a family home evening or scripture study. We never spent money on Sunday, and we ALWAYS payed a full tithe… even in the hardest of times, of which there were many. I truly believe it is because of her determination that all of the boys served missions and every one of us were married in the temple. I remember a few years ago running into the man who served as our bishop during that time of struggle. He said to me, “I heard that they are talking about making Mother Theresa a Saint in the Catholic Church… If we Mormons had saints, I would put your mom at the top of the list for Saint Hood”. I thought that was a fitting compliment for the sacrifice my mom had to make in those years.
She did the best she could with our little broken family… and there is no question in my mind that the Lords hand was involved in the raising of his spirit children in that home. Of course, the Lord had the help of amazing Home teachers who never missed a month.
But try as she might, She couldn't be everywhere she wanted to be and so… a lot of the time.. we simply took care of ourselves. It was not unusual for her to come home and not know where I was… but since I only had a small group of friends, it would never take long to track me down. Besides, up until I was 10, My 3 best friends in the world lived only 2 or 3 houses away.
It was in the company of each of these friends that I began having my first sexual experiences.
Ok.. So Forgive me for a moment but I need to say something before I continue. When I was thinking about writing this blog, I first decided to read a few other blogs to see what people were sharing and in what format. I discovered in a couple cases that when people write about their past experiences, they would do so in such detail that it almost felt as if I was reading a romance novel. I began to feel, in reading their entries, the same hungers and urges that I would feel before giving in to the temptations of my own sin. It is not my intention to do any such thing. My entries are intended to hopefully share some insight as to where this horrible addiction starts and where and how it can lead to destructive places. I never want to write in a way that would inspire you into thoughts of acting on your addiction. Please know that I will do my best to give only enough detail to make my point.
OK Back to the memories…
Probably my very first memory comes when I was about 9 years old. I was at a neighbor friends house. We were being watched by his older sister who might have been 14 at the time. She was watching about 6 of us neighbor kids that day. For some reason we were all invited in the parents room where she decided to stand on the bed and undress and dance in front of us.
To this day, I have no idea why in the world she did that. All I know is that it was the first time in my life that I saw a woman naked. It was also the first time in my life that I felt that conflict of emotions. The feeling of knowing something is wrong and knowing you should look away but also enjoying what you were seeing and wanting to see more. I felt that feeling of both guilt and desire clashing into each other. I was ashamed… I knew even at 9 years old that what I was seeing was wrong. But I made a choice that day. It was the beginning of a lifetime of similar choices…
I kept quiet… I allowed it to become fodder for my thoughts… reliving that feeling over and over… allowing it to find a home in my mind and take up permanent residency. It was my first real “Secret”. I talked about it with no one, not even my friend who was there with me.
Over the next several years I found myself in several situations that could be considered inappropriate. And though I never actively sought those situations out, I also never turned and ran from them. I became a sexually curious young man.
Many events took place that were positive in my life. I became a deacon and then, deacons quorum president. I spent time on and off with dad. My brothers were starting to go on missions. I felt like a good boy. On one hand I was an example and looked up to.
On the other hand, I had a private personal desire to feed this sexual curiosity.
I had several encounters that continued to fuel this curiosity. Experiences such as coming across a dirty magazine in a friends attic or innocently walking in on a sister dressing.
These incidents left lasting impressions in my mind that I again would return to fantasize about on several occasions.
The age of 13 was the first time I actively went out of my way to try and see something on purpose. It was actually a somewhat humorous venture on my part. Thinking I was so smart I decided to hide in my sister's closet while she was showering in hopes that I might catch a peak while she was dressing. I discovered that I had hidden myself too well at the very back of the closet. I was unable to see anything at all.. and the worst part is that she immediately began doing her homework and I was unable to escape my hiding place for over 2 hours.
Nonetheless.. My desire were escalating.
In my 14th or 15th year my mother remarried a man who while he seemed sincere and wonderful during their courtship, turned out to be a controlling monster once their vows were shared. I, being the oldest boy in the home at this time, became his outlet for releasing his anger and frustration. But I, being a fairly ornery teenage boy, was not interested in subjecting myself to his anger, and so I found myself spending a lot of time with another of my very close friends.
This friends was also a member of the church, however his family rules were far less strict than mine, in fact, they were virtually non existent. His home eventually became the place to go to be free from all rules..
Again I played my part. I acted the good boy. I called bad behavior out for what it was. I did what everyone expected me to do but I secretly loved being at his house for the same reasons. Oh and the best part of all…. They had all the Premium Channels.. HBO.. Showtime… and Cinemax.
I of course claimed that those were the worst channels to watch, but when I would sleep over, after all the house had drifted off to sleep, I would sneak downstairs and secretly watch adult programming. I would feast for hours throughout the night.
Adding new images to my now ever growing treasure trove of thoughts and fantasies I was found myself in a constant battle with myself. I was starting to discover the internal struggle that I had concerning knowing what was right and doing what was right. But so far, my actions were concealed and in private and besides, I would rationalize with myself… its not like I had sex… or even masturbated…. Yuck… I just watched some skin flicks! And so I would continue with my secret occasional binge… thanks to a friend and his cable provider.
At the age of 16 I was called to serve as the First assistant in the priest quorum. I found myself working hard to avoid those situations. I still struggled with the fantasies and images I had allowed to take root there over the years, but I didn't feel as though I was actively feeding them either.
I took a job at the local swimming pool as a life guard and my resolve slowly began to weaken again as I enjoyed a daily parade of half dressed women.
One night while hanging out at a friends house, I was invited over to a neighbor girls home to watch a movie. The neighbor girl sat down next to me on the couch and offered to share a blanket. The details will stop with that last sentence. Needless to say… she had other ideas then watching a movie… and for the first… and last time in my teen age life… I was involved in what the church refers to as “Heavy petting”
That evening has been seared into my mind. It became the subject of many long and desperate prayers over the years as I tried to rid myself of the first act in my life that I truly believed was sinful and required repentance. The problem was, I was a coward. I wanted to repent. I knew I needed to repent but I just couldn't find the courage and so I never did… even until this day… I have never shared that with a Bishop.
I believe hiding that sin was the start of my cowardice. O began believing I could get away without ever repenting or confessing those moments… and this set a pattern for the rest of my life.
Thank you for reading. Ill share more of my addiction journey very soon.