Progressive Addiction to Progressive Recovery

I started extramarital affairs about 7 years ago. When I started recovery, I realized that including extra massage services, my acting out started about 12 years ago. The start date isn’t as important as the fact that over the years my regularity, STD risk, and lies progressed to the point of being out of control. At first it was infrequent, then about once per month, then weekly, then nearly daily. During the final years of active addiction I lost track of reality. I was frequenting prostitutes and thought many of them as steady girlfriends. Sometimes when I was with one prostitute for a week or longer, I would find a “better” girl and drop the current girl without a thought. Then when I was with the “better” prostitute I continued to look for an “even better” girl. I don’t believe I had a clue what I was really searching for.

To give a sense of my loosening boundaries over the years as my addiction grew, I want to recall 7 years ago when I thought involvement with a prostitute was unacceptable. I had an affair with an airline stewardess. She was single, and she knew that I was married. We coordinated work travel schedules to overlap in the same cities. I “fell in love”. After a few months she broke up with me because she hated the memory of the pain her mother suffered while her father was having an affair. At break up, I was depressed. I was inconsolable. I vowed never to become so emotionally attached to an affair again. I went to a therapy that I believed would return me to my marriage. My self-discipline was short lived. 3 months after therapy I started acting out in a different way. I turned to prostitutes, believing that cash for sex was an equal transaction that required no emotional investment. With prostitutes I thought I would be emotionally protected. I was wrong. As my addiction progressed, I would sometimes become infatuated with one prostitute or another. I thought if I supported “my lover” sufficiently she could change profession and lead a better life. As I grew emotionally attached to one girl, I couldn’t accept that “my lover” was a prostitute. I couldn’t picture her with another guy. When apart from her, I was short tempered and impatient. My craving for her was so intense that I thought I was ready to give up my family, give her my money, and be with her “forever”. I was deluded and in denial.

For me the strongest “payoff” from acting out was the emotional high of feeling that I am attractive and desirable. I felt entitled to spend the money I earned to enjoy myself in the company of “adoring” women. Every conquest increased my social confidence. On business trips I filled loneliness with the company of a pretty girl. I enjoyed feeling special, youthful, and attractive. I needed to be “wanted” by the girl. In my delusion I couldn’t make the distinction between true attraction and paid accompaniment.

I pursued girls in multiple countries. I never told any of them about the others, and certainly I didn’t tell my wife about any of them. I thought I could manage my secrets and lies. I took precautions to preserve my secrets. I deleted my phone messages and logs. I fabricated aliases for names of girls in my phonebook. I deleted email messages and made sure my accounts were logged off. Still I lived in constant fear that my wife would answer my phone or detect a lie. As my lies increased, I couldn’t remember all of them. If my wife asked, “Where did you go last Sunday night?” I tried to recall where I said I would be going, whether I told the truth or a lie before I departed the house on Sunday, and whether she had already asked me the same question between now and last Sunday and whether I had responded. I was in constant fear of contradicting my own lies. Fear led to avoidance. I reasoned that if I avoided situations where my wife could ask me questions, I could avoid getting myself tangled in my web of lies. Avoidance led to emotional detachment. I no longer wanted to be close to my wife. When she asked for intimacy, I couldn’t perform. Maybe it was out of guilt or worry or simply from no longer feeling emotionally attached.

I had dug myself into a hole. I wanted my affairs. I also wanted to keep my kids in a stable 2-parent household. I wanted the best of both worlds, and I couldn’t imagine giving up either. Then one day my wife discovered 2 affairs simultaneously through chat history. I was trapped into making a decision.

At discovery, my first reaction was anger. I was angry at having to choose between my affairs and my family. I blamed my wife for being unavailable. I felt trapped in the cage my miserable life had become.

That night my kids heard me and my wife fight, glass smashing, screaming, crying. My kids’ world was shattered. I remained at a crossroads for a few weeks. I wanted to leave my marriage to be with my latest affair, yet I didn’t want my kids to be raised by a single parent. I was deluded, insensitive, and feeling entitled to do as I please. My wife was suicidal and I didn’t care.

During those weeks I considered: do I love my wife?; would a prostitute half my age really stay with me for the rest of my life?; would I be able to maintain a future relationship with my kids?; do I really know my affair?; what do I want from this life?

I told my wife that I want to choose my family. She was in obvious disbelief that I thought I still had a say in my decision. Nevertheless we agreed to start counseling.

Early in counseling I rejected that I had a problem. I believed that everyone and everything else in my environment conspired to deprive me of my entitled “entertainment”. Because I sought extramarital affairs to relieve stress, mask loneliness and convince myself that I still have youthful or desirable qualities, I couldn’t imagine a life without these comforts. Gradually after I came to terms with my situation, my therapist referred me to SLAA. I agreed to give it a try.

I distinctly remember my first SLAA meeting. I was in shambles. I listened to member stories and was shocked that I could relate to nearly all of them. It was my first recognition that I may be an addict. My hands shook as I pleaded for help from the group.

At the time of this writing, it’s been 10 months since discovery and 6.5 months since coming to SLAA. Through the experience of SLAA members and the SLAA H.O.W. (honesty, openness, willingness) 12-Step program, I have regained balance and boundaries in my life. Not only am I sober from acting out for 10 months, but I also gained awareness of my character that allows me to continuously improve upon my healthy relationships. I am once again happily married to my tremendously strong and forgiving wife and I have good relationships with my kids. I am grateful for sobriety and the path to recovery

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