Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Steps

This post comes from John.

Recovering from any addiction requires intentional steps away from the addictive behavior and deliberate steps toward healing. My first steps have come in fits and starts over many years, but I feel that I have finally taken the most important step toward my healing by burning the bridge of secrecy.

Sexual addiction is built in the darkest places of our souls. Our own conscience, however darkened, knows the shamefulness of our deeds and seeks to hide from sight. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes as God came looking for them in the garden paradise (see Genesis 3), we intuitively hide our true selves for the shame of our perverted desires.

As we live our inner lives in the dark, we become less and less human, less of the people we truly are, less of the people we want to be, and we begin to lose hope. The hopelessness feeds the shame and the shame feeds the desire to act out our addictive behaviors. Eventually, our minds are so filled with managing the shame and the endless addictive cycle that we no longer recognize ourselves.

When the day finally came that I could no longer live in the pain and isolation of myself, I burned all bridges back into my addiction by telling those closest to me that I was beyond helping myself overcome this terrible problem. It was simultaneously the single worst and single greatest day in my life. It was my first true step toward healing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Nobody Understands Me"

I've heard those words before. In my years of pain, I said them many times. And it was true: No one understood me.

How could anyone? They couldn't read my mind. They couldn't look at the way I walked and say, "There's someone who needs my compassion."

For most of us who start down the healing path, the first big step we can make is to say to someone, "I'd like to talk to you." That person can be a pastor, a therapist, a friend, or a co-worker, but it has to be someone we feel we can trust. I write, "feel we can trust" because we can't be certain about anyone, so we'll have to take a few risks.

Too many pain-filled men haven't spoken aloud about their abuse. Maybe not enough of us will listen. Maybe they don't have the courage to speak.

But unless they give others the opportunity to care for them, they'll have to continue to say, "Nobody understands me."

And they'll be correct.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I wonder how many men have written to me about their short-term relationships. They speak of anger, distrust, fear, and other significant issues.

I spoke to a man after a meeting in Grand Rapids. With tears in his eyes, he asked, "Will I ever find someone who loves me no matter what?"

I wish I could have yelled, "Certainly! Yes!"

He's suspicious of people and said it was a big risk for him to talk to me. "But you don't know my name and you'll never see me again, so I guess you're safe."

That's when tears came to my eyes. I understood his inability to trust, although his issue was certainly deeper than the matter of trust. As we talked he told me about his abuse and then hurried on to say that he had been in six relationships in less than two years. "At first, I was sure each one would last. I wanted each one to last—I really did."

"What happened?" I asked.

He shrugged. "They let me down. They betrayed me and told lies about me." He went into detail about his last affair. He wasn't able to acknowledge anything as being his fault. He was always the victim.

I could think of many things to say, and I started with a few suggestions. Occasionally he nodded; a few times he smiled. But whenever I paused, he said, "Yes, that's true, but. . . "

Finally I stopped. I had been speaking about practical things he could do but I realized that my words weren't what he needed. "May I hug you?" I asked.

He nodded and I warmly embraced him and held him for several seconds. "You don't need instructions," I said. "You need to feel loved and cared for, don't you?"

He pulled away, mumbled his thanks, and hurried away.

He was right: I didn't know his name. Most likely I'll never see him again. That evening I put him on my daily prayer list. I didn't have a name but I had a memory of a man with tears in his eyes. I've been praying for him daily for more than four months. I don't intend to stop praying.

I can't do anything for him.

But God can.

And God can use other people in his life. I wish I were able to be one of them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"I Was Sexually Abused as a Child."

On Saturday, July 23, I did a presentation to a group on the topic, "I Should Be Healed by Now." It was interactive and several spoke about their abuse, their struggles, and their healing.

One young man asked if he could speak. His poignant words became even more powerful as I realized that was the first time he had ever spoken publicly. He chose to remain anonymous on this post because, "It's still so new to me."

Below is part of his story, "I Was Sexually Abused as a Child."

* * * * * * * * * *

"I was sexually abused as a child."

It has been a year since I first uttered those words. Before then, I hadn't told a soul. I'd always known the tragic events that took place, but I couldn't admit to myself that I actually was abused and that I was a victim.

Before I admitted the events of my past, I shrugged it off as "not that big of a deal" and moved on. I now know the great impact it really had (and still has) on my life.

This is what I remember:

When I was in elementary school, I often had to stay late and wait for a ride home from a teacher who lived near us. Our school offered K-12 grades and 10 to 15 other kids stayed late like I did with little supervision. I remember being annoyed that I wasn't able to go directly home after school and play like most of the other kids.

I had to stay outside until four o'clock with all of the other kids, even though I knew my mother's van wasn't coming around that corner and pulling into the parking lot to pick me up.

There was an older student who said I was a pretty cool kid. He sought me out, talked to me, and made me feel important, like one of the "big kids."

One particular afternoon was no different. I remember so many details about staying late after school, but the important details are extremely blurry.

I was in the lobby with the usual students. The older boy asked me to follow him and, being a trusting child, I did. We meandered down a couple of hallways and ended up in the boys’ locker room. He described in great detail sexual acts he did with girls. With a pencil he drew pictures of the female anatomy on the white, brick wall.

I remember thinking that something wasn't right and if anyone came in we would get in big trouble. I had the same paralyzing feeling that I have now as I write about this.

I don't remember exactly what he did—that's blotted out. But he did something to me. I'm clear about that.

The next day when he asked me to follow him to the locker room again, I firmly said no. I'm thankful for the courage I had to stand up to him at such a young age.

The pencil drawings remained on the walls of that locker room for some time, presumably because they were faint and obscure. I continued to see them over the years and they reminded me that what happened was real.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

His Mother Didn't Believe Him

(This is from Stan Wangen, one of the faithful readers of the blog.)

I can't remember being told any lies. On the other hand I didn't feel I could share what that hired man had done to me. I didn't feel safe enough to share it with my mother; my dad and I never talked.

Many, many years later I worked up the courage to say to my mother, "Did you know that Jack O---- molested me?"

My mother turned away without answering the question. I never said another thing about it.

I guess I realized all along that in essence I would not be believed anyway. It’s so very hard when you’re not believed—no matter what age you might be.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lies I Believed (by Dann Youle)

I believed that somewhere out there really was a "perfect" family. With "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Leave It To Beaver." Heck, "The Andy Griffith Show" perpetuated it as well. Even though there were no alcoholics in my family of origin, and even though abuse didn't happen overtly in my family, I knew we didn't have the perfect family.

I was always the "good boy," but even that wasn't enough. The big lie I believed was that I would never be a man. Having been abused sexually and discarded by my grandpa, struggling with same-sex attraction, not receiving the love and affirmation from my father the way I needed to, I realize that at 45 I still don't always feel like I'm a man!

I know I am a man—a real man—and I'm learning to define myself the way that God sees me. The American ideal of a man I'm not, and I'm finally learning that that's OK.

For the longest time, I couldn't move forward in life because I felt like I didn't have what it takes to have real "masculine initiative" and do the things I know I'm called to do. I'm still learning and have a long way to go, but at least I've started back to school, and I know I can accomplish all God has for me.

It's a great feeling: I'm truly the man God has called me to be and I am "living into that" more and more.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Secrecy, Shame, and Self-Hatred

This comes from an anonymous reader.

All that happened to me as a child was cloaked in secrecy. The abusive sexual activity happened in the dark behind closed doors. It wasn’t acknowledged or discussed even though it was the most consuming factor in my young life.

I lived for sex. I was active with men and women before I was sixteen years old and led a highly promiscuous life. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have sex many times a day with multiple partners.

In my recovery, I now recognize that the activity I engaged in was my attempt to cover the shame I felt from my own early childhood sexual abuse. Acting out began to feel normal and part of my identity, thus I cloaked my shame in the very activity that caused it.

The ultimate result of my acting out has been self-hatred. I look back on nearly five decades of wasting myself chasing “love” that could never exist in lust, pornography, and acting out, and I hate myself.

Part of my healing is to realize that secrecy and shame have fueled my self-hatred. The desire to be known, to be loved, and to have a healthy relationship is natural. The secrecy, shame, and self-hatred aren't natural, but were forced on me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Was It Really Abuse?

This comes from an anonymous reader.

I thought every little boy went through what I did—fondling, bondage, brutalizing. It never occurred to me that I had been abused until I sat in a therapist’s office much later in life and explained my addictive problems with masturbation and lust.

So why is it still difficult to accept what happened to me was abusive? One hurdle to accepting my experiences as abusive is that the perpetrators were family members. Whatever their own abuse had been, they inflicted their pain on me repeatedly.

Another hurdle is that I participated in the abuse. I was a child. I didn't know any better than to go along with the invasive and inappropriate advances. They made me feel important and needed. I felt a greater sense of belonging in those moments that I didn’t feel at any other time. Someone wanted me. Someone needed me.

My parent’s own abuse and abandonment at early ages left them incapable of providing a safe, nurturing environment for me and for my siblings. Sexual acting out was the way this void was being filled in our family system. Our boundaries were blurred or lost.

What happened to me was abusive. As I grow to accept this more fully, I can seek love and acceptance at a deeper human level instead of by acting out in inappropriate ways.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coping as a Child

This comes from an anonymous reader.

“Get your hands out of your pants!” is one of the first things I remember hearing my mother say to me as a child. What she didn’t know is that I had seen my father masturbating in the bathtub and that I had discovered my own genitals. I wouldn’t understand for decades how this experience would shape my own sexuality and become the root of sexual addiction, pain, and dysfunction in my life.

Although allowing me to see him may have been an innocent mistake on my father’s part, it was but a precursor to a decade of sexual abuse that I would experience from other trusted relatives.

As a child, I coped with those repeated traumas by participating in the abuse, looking for value and self-esteem by being important to someone else in inappropriate ways.

As an adult, this coping mechanism no longer works and leaves me empty, frustrated, and alone.

Part of my recovery work is through finding healthy ways to cope with my anxiety and the residual pain of childhood sexual abuse. The lust I feel for men is really just a cry from my soul to feel okay about myself and to connect with someone on a deeper level. That hopeless feeling deep down inside is the longing to have what I didn’t have as a child—a safe and healthy family.