I’ve always been very moved by Anne Frank. One of her writings really caught me back in high school when I read her diary and it has stuck with me in one way or another all of my life. “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart.” I knew inherently that I was a “people.” Somewhere I believed that. But I also wondered, how I could consider myself “good” when I did these dirty, nasty things … when my thoughts were so disgusting and perverted. How does this jive with this thing that I know I believe?
In one way or another that war raged in me for years. I’ve studied Christianity, Judaism, and more recently some Eastern teachings, and these all confirmed for me this thing that I knew, but could not believe. First of all, how could I be good when I had sex with men? That’s just wrong, everything I’ve ever seen and experienced from childhood told me that. I kept sexual experiences with an older male cousin at a very young age a secret because he said we had to. I lied constantly about an ongoing sexual relationship with an older classmate in elementary school who threatened to tell if I didn’t keep doing what we were doing. I had to be a good kid.
I needed approval — especially from my dad. I hated sports. I loved music. I loved theater. I’ll never forget how ashamed and humiliated I felt when Dad found a magazine hidden under my bed and demanded that I burn it because, “You’re not queer, are you?!” I knew I was a disappointment to him. How could I not be? I wasn’t a real man. I wasn’t a real boy.
I found peace in sneaking around and masturbating to memories of the hot guys with their shirts off I saw on television. I started to think that everybody has secrets, this is normal. Everybody has that thing that they’re ashamed of and just doesn’t talk about. We all just do what we do.
So I continued to wonder how could I be really “good” at heart when everything that makes me feel good is shameful, bad, and something no one can ever know. I lived with this for years, then I finally “came out.” I mostly accepted the fact that I’m gay and that’s not really a bad thing. But I still was not “OK.” I still was not good. These thoughts felt like “me.” These fantasies, these things that I sought out in porn and in the hundreds of anonymous partners, all these things that I needed to assure me that I’m good became an obsession.
But I finally met a person who loved me. But I wondered, how can he love me, what’s wrong with him if he can love this freak who is so twisted? Well, I figured he could never know all this bad stuff about me, so the stress continued. The behaviors continued and all the while I was falling in love. I believed my love must be idiot because he believed in me. I wondered how could he possibly love me. After all, I’m a terrible person. I am all the terrible things I do — all the disgusting things that I think and watch and do.
Then I found out I have AIDs. He’s clean (a miracle I still don’t understand). Ten years of lies came to a head and the truth finally came out. He loves me. He forgave me. He stood by me. It’s not easy. This is, of course, is an incredible over-simplification of the story. Trust is still being rebuilt and will be ongoing for quite some time. But I can say, that I understand Grace. I’ve experienced it. Most people would have been out that door and never looked back, and I wouldn’t have blamed him for it if he had.
A year and a half later, I tried a counselor. It didn’t go well. I knew I still needed help. There were still issues. But I was not too convinced that counselors are sane. How could they really help? My behaviors outside the relationship (other than porn) had stopped. The shock of the AIDS diagnosis and the honesty that brought on ended the acting out. But I still wanted the fantasy men from the porn. I wasn’t interested in this man who loved me and that I loved.
One night he was on the couch looking for a book that might help us, that we could work through together and stumbled across the book, A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction and said, “Hey, would you read this with me.” I hadn’t fully admitted to myself that I was an addict at that point, but I said sure. He got the book, and in the process of looking up some information about the authors I found a podcast that Paldrom had done. Then I saw that it was a second part of an earlier podcast that George had done promoting Breaking the Cycle. I listened to both podcasts and immediately got Breaking the Cycle on my iPad. I opened it and read the opening, and said to myself, “This is me, oh my God, this is me. This man will get me, he will understand, and I can actually be free of this thing.”
I called George that evening and one of the first things he said to me was, “You are not your thoughts.” If I am not my thoughts, then I really can be “good” at heart. I’m a little messed up, have some things turned around in my head, but that’s just it, it’s in my head, it’s not me!” I was actually right all along.
I’ve been working with George about 5 weeks and what I have come to know is that I am connected to everything. I’m connected to you who are reading this. I’m connected to the addict who will never read this, I’m connected with the beautiful tree outside my window. I’m connected with Mother Theresa and Anne Frank for crying out loud (and I did some of that too). These are all good. I am good. I am worth loving. The work of recovery is worth it because there is something of more value than I can ever understand — there is no need to understand, because I am.