Life is Changing – A Sex and Love Anorectic’s Story

Before coming into recovery, my life seemed headed nowhere. Sure, I had some grand plans involving the wonderful relationship(s) I would have that I can show off to others to get them to shut up, not that they ever said anything to me about my relationship status, which has been absolutely nil from the time I was born. I am 36 years of age as I am writing now; 36 years of unintended celibacy. Spinsterhood seems to run in the family and all the aunts on my dad’s side of the family remained single, which may have kept family members from questioning me about my singledom out of respect for the seniors. I had grand plans to be a rock star, volunteering and rescuing abused women from around the world, and having as many sex partners as I wanted once I broke the “virginity curse”… yes, loads of grand plans were taking place solely in my head while I moved from job to job and attempting half-heartedly to leave my country of origin.

I first heard of the term sexual anorexia when I first contacted Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. It was like a bolt of lightning and I felt a piece of a jigsaw puzzle fall into place. In all honesty, I was very unsure about myself when I first approached the group. How can someone who’s never had sex with another person possibly find affinity or be accepted in this group? Yet, in spite of all outward appearances, sex has been with me since an early age, making its home in my head. Hardly did a day go by without me having some kind of sexual thought, either in passing fancy or in full-blown obsession. I heard of another term during my first few SLAA meetings that summed it up for me neatly – fantasy addiction. Fantasy for me today refers to any thought that does not dwell in my present reality and are not necessarily those with sexual content – dialogue fantasies, fantasies of impressing others of my intellect and wit or of saving the weak, fantasies of my own appearance, superpower battles, revenge scenerios on people I have resentments of and more. As I disappeared into the comfort of my make-believe world, the real world that I was living in grew progressively foreign to me and harder to understand.

My earliest memories of my burgeoning interest in sex began with the strange yet not entirely unpleasant feelings that arose whenever I saw TV dramas and movies with sexual content. They usually revolved around women and sexual crimes and I would collect cut-outs from newspapers or magazines to fuel my fantasy. I did not know then that I was actually very frightened of these things happening to me, and as a child, I somehow dealt with my fear by convincing myself that I like thinking about these things and that if it’s in my head, it’s not real anyway. The more frightened I am, the more I fantasised, and the more I fantasised, the more unsafe I felt as a female. This method of soothing myself became a vicious cycle which increased progressively over the years. Fearing and vigilantly watching out for sexual assaults became a daily way of living for me. Anxiety became a constant companion.

When I hit puberty, I started having erotic dreams of guys that I liked. At the same time, the violent fantasies of girls, usually girls in my class, continued and grew more intense. I discovered books of fiction that contained sexually triggering writings and I would spend my days reading and rereading them. Fantasy, by now, has become a part of me. I had big storylines running in my head like epic period drama serials. Some of these storylines run for years.

I never had much “luck” with the guys I was attracted to. No guy had ever approached me to show any interest or ask me out before. Before recovery, I just reasoned it out by saying that was just my “luck”. Inside of me, however, was a clenching fear that there was something foul and inacceptable about me, something horrible that all men can sense instinctively and run away from. In recovery, I am slowly learning about what I have been doing to avoid men – attraction to unavailable people and those who were not likely to be interested in me, for e.g. being attracted to men who frowned at me, whereas men who smiled at me would start to immediately look uglier; walking in a roundabout manner so that I would not pass a lone man in public areas. I used to have a close guy friend whom I really valued due to the fact that he was the only guy I could hang out with without feeling weird. Those good old days ended when he broke up with his girlfriend. He was single again. I started to feel weird around him and slowly distanced myself from this friend. I was unable to be on friendly terms with a man who is not attached.

Some time in my mid-twenties, I started masturbating and consuming pornography and continued with progressing dependency on them and compulsiveness until I came into SLAA. By my early thirties, I didn’t have much of a social life outside of work and spent most of my time away from work with family. I was plain lonely but you’d really have to put a gun to my head before I would ever admit to that, even to myself. I had a mix of addictions to work, food, TV dramas, games and comics to medicate myself, which I would alternate with my sex addictions. Progressively, I felt worse and worse about myself and I didn’t know why. I was never in a relationship so I never had to go through the painful break-ups that other friends go through. I had not gotten to the point of feeling suicidal. I never had a lack of money from my family of origin. I didn’t feel that I had the right to feel as bad as I did… because nothing happened to me. The only thing that was wrong was precisely that… nothing ever happened in my life. Inside me though, I felt a hurricane brewing.

I hit my rock bottom at the beginning of 2011. Out of work after quitting a series of jobs that I stayed in for progressively shorter and shorter periods of time, I started becoming increasingly aggressive at home towards my dad. My mum was never fully present due to her own mental health problems and since young, I was Daddy’s girl. He would tell me all about my mum, his own sexual habits and would consult me on matters at home for our joint decision. I was his surrogate spouse and helped him look after my mum and my brother. I understand today that this is referred to as an emotional incest relationship, in which the emotional part of a husband-and-wife relationship has been transferred to the child instead. As I slowly grew more socially isolated over the years, I became more reliant upon my dad for company. I also grew increasingly abusive and violent at home towards him. Whenever those episodes happened, I would feel guilty and resolved never to lose my temper again. But it only got worse. I started dreaming every night of violent acts towards my dad. I spent my waking hours swallowing the scream I felt at the back of my throat and trying to control myself from flying at my dad. I was afraid that I would maim or kill him one day and live the rest of my life in pain because my dad was the man in my life and I “knew” I would have nothing left if he left me. It took me another year-and-a-half of therapy, recovery books and attending another addiction fellowship before I finally got to SLAA.

Since coming into recovery, I have discovered yet another addiction – a love addiction to my female best friends. I was bad with men so I used to place all my attentions on women. I never thought of my relationships with my girlfriends as anything unhealthy before. I simply thought of myself as the perfect and most loyal and available best friend that can exist in this world – boyfriends can be changed, husbands can be divorced, but best friends are forever. I was emotionally dependent on these best friends and my moods would rise and plunge depending on how much I think my “best friend” valued me over her guy or over other friends.

In my programme of recovery, my addictions to best friends and my dad were arrested with the bottom lines I have set for myself with the help of my sponsor. I also learnt about accessory behaviours and the parts of my personality that contributed to feeding my addiction. The concept of anorexia was still very new in Singapore when I joined the SLAA fellowship in 2012 and I struggled to make sense of how I have made a life pattern out of avoiding men, avoiding love and intimacy, and bingeing on my addictions to avoid living my life. I am still learning today and changing old behaviours to replace them with new and healthier ones.

Today, I feel very grateful to be in recovery. The day-to-day obsessions have somewhat lifted and I am rediscovering the person that I am without the addiction. I am building my own independent life and opening myself to sober dating and finding out what it is that I actually want in life. I am learning how to relate to my family in healthier and non-harmful ways. The process is slow and unhurried. I have learnt that the more urgency I have in getting somewhere, the further I move away from it. I feel more grounded today, and alive. I am in no desperate hurry to get anywhere because I am enjoying the joyfulness in growing as a person one day at a time and I want to be present to each and every moment of it.

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