Trying to explain my spiral into addiction is neither pleasant nor easy. In recent months, I’ve acknowledged that my “perfect” family wasn’t perfect at all. We had a dark side. My mother sexually abused me when I was young. I became a surrogate to her while my Dad traveled. (Maybe in the years that follow, sharing more details might prove helpful. For now, however, it serves no useful function.) It is hard enough to acknowledge that the abuse happened at all. By doing so, I violate my family’s rules. A Godly woman like my Mom wasn’t capable of such horrific acts. And yet, she was. It is important to say that the damage and debris left in the furrow of the abuse did not cause me to become a sex addict. It was my responses to the sexual violence that led me to addiction.
A fiance who betrayed me with another man only served to compound the marring of my soul. The memory of my brother and I driving away from her house after collecting the ring I gave her is still vividly horrifying. My brother pulled over so I could dry heave on a dark, deserted highway. In the weeks and months following the dry heaves, my fantasy life grew dark and violent. I couldn’t pretend to be pure and naive any longer. I became monkish, not trusting the opposite sex. For the rest of my college career, I avoided relationships with women to the degree that some of my friends thought I was gay. It took over a year and a half for me to allow my InterVarsity staff worker to try to set me up with a girl from Michigan State. Though we were both interested, it never panned out. As a result, I stayed happily single, masturbating to erotica, pornography, and violent fantasies of sexual revenge against my ex. At this point, sex didn’t feel like a big deal to me. It didn’t consume me. Masturbation was merely something I did — didn’t everyone?
After graduating, from college, I moved to Ann Arbor, to work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I still remember walking into my temporary housing and running into a drop-dead gorgeous brunette who introduced herself as a member of the performing arts, evangelism team I was to lead. At that moment, we both knew that there was an undeniable spark. Eventually, we started dating. She was fantastic and was everything that I ever wanted in a life partner. She wowed me, and I was madly in love with her.
I transformed my appearance and demeanor; I grew my hair long, into a fashionable late 80’s style mullet and began sporting a close-cropped beard. I pierced my ear and wore a dangly silver cross earring in the style of George Michael. Every Wednesday night I went to a pub on Main Street, across from campus talk to people about Jesus. I reveled in the fact that the people didn’t understand what a pastor was doing in a pub, drinking beer, talking with them about Jesus. I was having a blast, living a dream. Noting this, is important because my dream life wasn’t enough. Indeed, it underlined my fears that I would never be enough.
A major event that few people know about occurred in 1989. I traveled home to Portland for a short break, My appearance had changed so much that my family and friends had a hard time recognizing me. I found considerable freedom in anonymity. One day I met a friend near Portland’s red light district. Afterward, I drove a few blocks and picked up a prostitute. It was surreal and completely caught me by surprise. I didn’t have any physical contact with her; though I thought I was going to when picking her up. I couldn’t. Rather, I pulled over, shared the gospel with her, gave her a tract and let her out, saying, “God bless you,” As she walked away, I shook in my boots, asking myself and God what was going on. I had no idea. I was so scared that I called my girlfriend and told her what I did. At her urging, I talked to the leadership at my church, being careful to “spin” my struggles in a way that I could get help and not get fired. They loved me and promised to pay for counseling.
When I got back to Michigan, I found a Christian therapist. I stayed in counseling for three years. Therapy wasn’t the answer, though. My sexual behaviors grew progressively worse during those years. I knew I was an addict, and yet I still couldn’t admit what that meant. Nor could I do anything about it; because no one in evangelicalism seemed to know what to do.
Soon thereafter, I discovered legal businesses; that offered illegal sexual practices. Behind their legal facades, they are ostensibly brothels and leading players in the sex trafficking industry. Though I found them innocently, entering their doors for legitimate reasons; following my discovery of the sexual acts offered, I became a regular customer; my sex addiction was spiraling out of control.
I never had sexual intercourse in any of these establishments. Indeed, I didn’t have intercourse before getting married. That was always a badge of pride for me. Being “technically pure” allowed me to rationalize away my behavior. After all, I was only as sexual as President Clinton had been with an intern. However, I spent more money than I possessed to feed my addiction. Even the sexual release I achieved wasn’t enough, though. I soon began experimenting with progressively riskier behaviors.
I knew I was rapidly descending into hell when I acted out with a strung-out woman in a dangerous Detroit back alley, on the heels of teaching about “Sex and being Single,” at a large singles conference. The woman, the alley, and the act all disgusted me. It wasn’t pleasurable. The only “hit” I got was the adrenalin hit of having taken another step toward death. I made another pledge not to act out sexually again. In this particular instance, I kept it for many months. Then I passed one of those neon signs that lit up the night inviting me back in. A siren song beckoned, and I couldn’t say no. I slipped right back into the familiar rhythms of adrenalin, escape, and pleasure. I didn’t know or care at this point how much my addiction was costing the women I was paying to gratify me, All I knew was that I couldn’t stop. I was an addict. I knew it and didn’t know how to admit it.
I lived a double life — no one knew about my behaviors. Unless you’ve done it (or are doing it), you can’t understand what that means. If you are in it, I know the hell you are in, because I visited and even bought a tee shirt while I was there.
Truly, when I was in my role of campus pastor and evangelist, I was unaware of the man who acted out sexually in secret with trafficked women. When I was cruising or acting out, my life as a pastor and evangelist didn’t matter one iota. I disassociated. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde‘s story was my story. I was truly lost.