It’s probably not a surprise that I went to an all girls Catholic High School

I kept a pretty detailed diary in 8th grade which included in embarrassing detail my sexual experimentation with a few of the boys in my class.  The day that I got home from school, walked into the kitchen and saw my mom sitting at the table with the diary as it’s centerpiece will go down in history as one of the worst days of my life.  I literally wanted to disappear.  Apparently my brother tattled to my parents that there were some stories in our public junior high about me and my mom did the best worst thing she could have.  In hindsight I can see the love in how my parents handled the situation.  I didn’t get into “trouble”, my mom and I had a long honest talk and then I went to weekly therapy with my parents for a few months.  Of course, I should have told the therapist about my 5th grade molestation but I still felt that my parents couldn’t handle that kind of pain so I didn’t.  Such silly beliefs we hold when we are 13 years old.   No child has the capacity to handle such things on their own – but 13 year olds don’t realize they are children.

At any rate, the discovery about my promiscuity with boys forced my parents to bring up the idea of transferring me to the Catholic Girls School for 9th grade.  I resisted, I begged, I made a million promises if they would please not send me to that stuck up school!  Then my junior high had a track meet against the girls school.  I stood there with my friend Leanne watching the pretty, well groomed girls in their matching track suits warm up.  Out of the blue, Leanne said “the girls at that school always get laid”.  The rest is history.  I went home that night and told my parents I was happy to switch schools.  My mom was suspicious…she had recognized early on my ability to manipulate… but her hands were kind of tied with this.  You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  So off I went in my little uniform to join the class of 1988.

Leanne was wrong.  The girls didn’t all get laid.  But of course, I did.  I lost my virginity mid way through my sophomore year to a senior with a girlfriend.  I desperately wanted to have sex with this very popular guy and one night I was lucky enough to be offered a ride home from him after a keg party.  We parked in a lot up the street from my parents house and had sex in the back seat of his parents car.  By Monday morning the whole school knew…including the boys school which was across town from ours.  For a while, I became the girl you went to if you wanted to have sex for the first time.  Two boys lost their virginity with me because their girlfriends (my classmates) wouldn’t do it.  So much for Leanne’s theory.  When I was a junior, my friends older brother took me to a movie and then date raped me afterward.  And senior year I fell a little in love with an outcast and we had sex the night before he moved away.  He left behind a case of chlamydia to remember him by.

One would think that the displaced validation I felt when these boys ‘wanted’ me would have been outweighed by the negative affects on my reputation and health.  But it didn’t.  Being ‘easy’ started to define me and it was a label I decided to embrace.  It made me feel different…and different can feel special.

Sex Addiction – the newest ‘go to’ theme for TV and film

It was just over 4 years ago that the Tiger Woods scandal introduced the word “sex addiction” to mainstream America.

Sex addiction is as old as the hills, but on that November day in 2009 (thanks to Tiger) sex addiction became a household word.  A few more celebrities entered rehab, Kanye West admitted to Details magazine that he is a sex addict, Dr Phil started to cover the subject and lo and behold sexaholism slowly began to be recognized as a societal problem (even if it’s still not generally accepted as an actual sickness).

A few movies started to look at the subject of sex addiction over the past years – and now it seems that all the big Hollywood studios are instructing their writers to add a sex addict story line to their scripts.  What alcoholism was to the 80’s (Barfly, When a Man Loves A Woman) and drug addiction was to the 90’s (Requiem for a Dream, Drugstore  Cowboy, Gridlock’d, Trainspotting), I predict sexaholism will be to 2014.

Addiction has always been a theme in music, film and tv.  Some of the best were clearly ahead of their time.  The 1962 film “Days of Wine and Roses” is a very realistic look at alcoholism during a time when social drinking was the norm.  Mickey Rourke’s character in 9 1/2 weeks was certainly a sex addict long before it was being discussed openly.  In the last couple of years we saw two excellent movies come out which centered entirely around sex addiction – “Shame” and “Thanks For Sharing”.   With top directors and big name actors starring in these films, the addiction is getting a lot of attention.

(SPOILER ALERT!)  Last nights “Shameless” episode is the latest show to use sex addiction as a theme.  Long story short, Fiona has sex with her boyfriends alcoholic brother.  She speaks with the alcoholic later that day and she says “we are going to forget this…it never happened” to which the alcoholic replies that it DID happen, and it WILL happen again.  Then he calls her “addict”.    Is this a case of the brother wanting to define others as addicts so he doesn’t feel so alone?  Or is Fiona indeed an addict herself – a result of being raised by an alcoholic father?  I’m guessing Al-Anon is in her future…as is a full blown affair with the alcoholic brother.  I mean, what addict could resist?

Wherever the story line goes for Fiona, this progress is really good and really important.  Film, TV, Music & Art are such important catalysts to bring information and understanding to people.  Mental illness, eating disorders, addictions, gay marriage…you name it…if it happens in the world, it eventually makes its way to the big screen and into the consciousness of millions of viewers.   Sometimes the real world and art collide as in the case of David Duchovny whose character Hank Moody in “Californication” is a sex addict, as David is in real life.

Some films will get it wrong and it is likely to be used for comedy as much as anything.  But the more the public sees of the damage and truth of this addiction the sooner we can all crawl out from under it’s shadows.

Hitting the nail on the head

I was watching the movie “Love And Other Drugs” with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.  A good comedy, drama romance between a woman with Parkinson’s and a man who isn’t defined as but veers toward sex and love addiction.

I jotted down this quote that Anne’s character says to him at a pivotal moment:

“…this isn’t about a connection for you.  This isn’t even about sex for you.  This is about finding an hour or two of relief from the pain of being you.”

That’s an important quote/a vital concept to remember when you start taking the acting out personally.

Chances Are…

It’s absolutely amazing to me how I just seem to hit one pothole after the next of late.  If you follow my blog you will know I was having a biopsy a couple of weeks ago.  It seems I have something called P-LCIS which they call “Stage 0” breast cancer.  I never realized there was such a thing – but alas, I have it.  So they will do an MRI and then remove the area and look at it closer to make sure there is nothing else of interest join on and that should be that. But the issue with LCIS is it increases my long term chances of invasive breast cancer to about 50% (this takes into account a few other factors which had put me in slightly higher risk categories).   I’ve seen 3 doctors and their opinions are  1) just do the lumpectomy and then wait and see 2) do the lumpectomy and add Fosamax and then wait and see 3) get a double mastectomy and be done with it.  The good news is that there is no rush to make a decision.  Assuming the MRI is OK, the LCIS can not spread.  But in the end I will have to weigh risks against risks and decide what to do.  

I hear that the risk of sex addicts relapsing is around 90%.  My husband relapsed before.  He may relapse again.   90% certainly isn’t a pretty number but it sounds about right considering how hard sobriety of any sort can be.  But he is making lifestyle changes and doing everything in his power NOT to relapse.  The numbers can’t convince me that he will. 

The bottom line is that my risk of anything in life is about 50/50.  I will either get cancer or I won’t.  He will relapse or he won’t.  We will move to Kentucky, or win a lottery or live to 90 or we won’t.  Statistics are just numbers and I refuse to to let them scare me into making any decision I am uncomfortable with.  I am not going to let a percentage increase my stress level – because if I do let the stress and worry take over my life – then I am pretty sure I will fall on the wrong side of the 50.

Boundaries and Consequences…an addendum

My husband pointed out that he felt my post about boundaries felt a little extreme.  He made some very valid points so I wanted to clarify and expand on a couple of things.

First and foremost – a list of boundaries is not intended to be punishment for your partner/spouse.  It is a list of behaviors that you will not tolerate.   If we don’t define what we think is acceptable behavior it’s pretty shocking the things we will end up accepting.   But if we utilize boundaries to create fences around our relationships, it helps us to stay on track. Once we know where the fence line is we know that we need to stop and reconsider our direction when we get to close to the edge.

Once we clearly state the boundaries in our relationship then there can be no excuses or misunderstandings.   You see, if I never say that I’m not comfortable with my husband going to a strip club – and then he goes one day because it’s convenient and those things happen – he could just say “It was nothing – I didn’t know it would bother you” and I wouldn’t have any legitimate repercussion.  Our partners can’t read our minds so we need to be very specific.   There can be no grey area when it comes to setting boundaries, especially around sexual activities or other addictions.

It’s not intended to be an unreasonable list which turns your mate into a married version of a monk.  The list needs to be reasonable and is best created with an empathetic heart .  It’s essentially a more detailed extension of a wedding vow.  If he was willing to commit in front of God and family that he would be faithful and loyal on your wedding day – then expanding on what exactly that means to you shouldn’t be an issue.  Your boundaries could include details about money, your children, how you communicate – anything that you feel is necessary to make yourself feel safe.  It took me weeks to finalize my list – to make sure that it was inclusive and that it was fair.

Most of all, it’s not about what he does – it’s about the consequences and how you will react in response to him overstepping his boundaries.  I have been in horrible relationships in my life.  I have accepted lying, cheating, drinking, abuse – you name it.  I had very few boundaries and the ones I did have kept getting pushed away as things got worse.  The reason my ‘boundaries’ didn’t work was because I hadn’t determined the consequences if they weren’t adhered to.   You need to state very clearly how you will react if boundaries are violated.   And you have to follow through with any consequence you set – if you don’t follow through then you’ll be telling your partner that your wishes don’t need to be respected.  A boundary without a consequence is just a hope.

None of this is easy but I am lucky enough to have an exceptional therapist who guides me through this process.  Also, my husband is committed to getting & staying sober and is supportive of implementing these tools.   I am so grateful for that.

Cheating on my spouse: He did it first, but I did it worse.

When I was a college sophomore, I started dating a real scumbag.  Ron had the slick tongue of a used car salesman (warning # 1) and was 9 years older than I (warning # 2).  Within a month I tried to stop seeing him but he threatened to kill himself (warning # 3).  Being 19 and naive, his pathetic manipulation worked and I stayed with him for 3 more years. Every once in a while, I would work up some courage and try to break up with him again.  These attempts usually ended with him putting a knife to one of our throats.

I’m not sure if it was his unpredictable bursts of violence or his puppy dog eyes when he asked for forgiveness  – but eventually I gave up on getting free of him.  I felt trapped, I hated him and I wanted to ruin him.  He was an abusive, arrogant piece of shit, definitely a liar, likely a cheater.  My competitive nature wouldn’t let me risk looking like a fool if and when the truth came out so I decided that it was fair – heck, it was absolutely necessary – for me to cheat on him.  If I ever found out that he had cheated on me with someone else, I wanted to be able to say “Ha! I cheated on you! TWICE!!”.   I was a hostage in the relationship and cheating was the only arena where I felt I could regain some power.

I started acting like a single, slutty sorority girl.  I fooled around with dozens of guys – anyone I wanted – whenever the opportunity arose and without an ounce of remorse.  Ron was suspicious and jealous and would sometimes wait on the sorority steps for me to get home on nights I went out with friends.  I’ll never forget a particularly warm morning when a very good looking guy named David walked me back to my house after he and his roommate fucked me until dawn – Ron was waiting for us.  David went his way and I spun an impressive lie about why a hot frat guy escorted me home and why my socks were on inside out.  After an hour long interrogation, Ron finally bought my story.  We moved on and I swelled with pride at this grand new skill I had developed to protect myself.  Lying.

As the years went by I got stronger and the short term affects of Ron’s escalating abuse started to fade – with that, he lost his power over me.  I managed to break up with him about a year after graduating.  Ron was devastated by the break up and used every trick in the book to try to get me back.  To get him to give up, I finally told him about my years of cheating.  I came clean primarily so he would stop harassing me – but also because I wanted the satisfaction of causing him a fraction of the pain he had caused me.  With no emotion on my face I said to him “I cheated on you”.  He started to cry and guessed a name “Brent?”.  “Oh yes” I said.  “Anyone else?  Ben?” he asked.  “Yep” I replied with a bit of pride.  “Is that all?” he asked.  And I told him in a tone that sounded oddly like I was bragging. ” Ted, David, Ian, Todd, Todd’s little brother, Chris, John, Aaron, Matt, some Fiji who lived by the bar, Jeff, Gordon, his friend Nick, the other John, Jonah, Thomas….”  Ron lay on the floor in a fetal-esque position sobbing and begging me to stop.  The power I felt in that moment was immense.  We were even and I was free.

It’s unfortunate that my validation was derived thru fucking random guys to get even with my abusive boyfriend.  But I will leave that dissection for another day’s post.  By the way…I know from friends who still live in my college town that Ron remains a horrible person, that he still lies and definitely cheats, and has a wife who is trapped. I think of her often and consider reaching out to her, to tell her it’s OK to walk out.  To let her know that there is, indeed, life after Ron.  But I digress.

The most natural thing for me to do when my husband first cheated on me would have been to get even with an affair of my own.  But I felt better than that – better than him – and I didn’t want to stoop to his level.  I wanted to hold this over him so he would spend his life making it up to me.  With my husbands knowledge I reached out to an ex for support, as a friend, but I didn’t cross that line to cheating with him for many years.  Cheating on Ron had given me a warped sense of equality and satisfaction.  But when I was unfaithful to my husband, there was no satisfaction, no sense that I had won and it didn’t ease any of the pain he had caused me.

My husbands cheating was unemotional and usually with nameless strangers.  He loved me deeply through all of it, he never wanted to hurt me and never considered leaving me.  He was sick.  My affair was somewhat physical but very emotional.  I had moments when I wanted to leave my husband for my boyfriend.  I was being selfish and vengeful.  So was my affair worse?  Maybe.  But despite the differences in relationships or who did what first, there is something about the experience that puts us on even playing ground now that we are recovering together.  I don’t have the self righteous stick of fidelity to wield over him.  We are both in pain, we were both wrong, we are both equal.

It would be unwise to believe with utter certainty that my husband isn’t currently cheating or won’t do so in the future.  That being said, my personal experience with being unfaithful wasn’t the experience I expected it would be.  With Ron, I felt fully justified and vindicated through it all.  With my husband I just felt guilty and unworthy of love.  I am grateful that my affair didn’t go any deeper than it did as it would have hurt all 3 of us even more.   Although I believe this isn’t a road that I will ever revisit, I know how tricky the disease of sex addiction can be and I fully accept the risk that my husband could slip or relapse again.  I just hope that he now has the tools to get help faster than he did in the past.  At this point, that is about the best I can hope for.