Diary of an Alcoholic, Non-Monogamous, Polyamorous Sex Addict
Figured the title might get some attention. That's what it's all about. Me. haha.
Actually, I hope my tale might be useful to some people out there. I have had about 4 decades of often-painful and consistently confused sexual and relationship history to try to get next to precisely WTF makes me tick. Maybe some will be able to relate to the twists and turns.
Much of my recent, still-limited awareness I owe to intensive 4th step and 5th step work in a 12 step program. I have been working in recovery for a little more than 6 years, and only recently gathered enough "courage" (truthfully, misery) to attempt a searching and fearless sex and relationship inventory. God only knows how I managed to stay sober from alcohol and drugs without one for the past six years, but that's really none of my business.
The rough outlines of such a thorough inventory are very simple. From the Big Book of AA, on the wonderful page 69:
"We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.
In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test-- was it selfish or not?"
How eye-opening to see, gradually, through the process of getting every sexual or intimate relationship down on paper and looking honestly at each one with the aid of another loving, clear-eyed person, that all of my relationships were essentially characterized by selfishness, dishonesty, fear, self-pity, self-delusion and self-seeking. Even when I thought I had "good motives," I was using people to get what I thought I wanted. If it seemed expedient to lie in order to "maintain the peace," so be it. If I risked "losing love" by being honest, screw that! If I risked short-changing myself some sexual thrill or NRE by being honest (to either involved party), again, screw that! (literally).
Cloak all of this nefarious self-serving narcissism in a fine coat of "romantic" and "poetic" love goo, and you see the usual picture of potential for real harm. It's an explosive mix. The more flat out expedient and Machiavellian I have been, the more truly epic my romantic fantasies and "twoo wuv" gobbledygook has been. As Jungians are fond of saying, "the brighter the light, the darker the shadow."
The best I have been able to string together is serial monogamy, but not with any real or clear intention. In fact, the compulsive tendency to form exclusive pair bonds has not been examined much if at all. I still carry some smoldering resentment that I must give over toward the cultural institution of monogamy as a result of my own irresponsible and compulsive codependent behavior. The usual pattern has been to get into a romantic relationship fairly quickly, "fall in love," make implicit or explicit monogamous promises and commitments quickly and then begin to fantasize about sex with other women fairly soon and then get back to looking at and jerking off to porn and eventually, cheat. Or, be cheated on, ironically.
So throw into my mix compulsive sexual acting out behavior that includes masturbating to porn, paying sex workers for sex and hooking up casually with women outside the ostensibly monogamous relationship. It's no real surprise that I am a sex addict, given the simple fact that I am an *everything* addict. It took a while to digest the simple fact that I am powerless over sex, relationships, people, you name it. No surprise, again, as it took me 42 years to admit the same regarding a mere liquid chemical.
The sex addiction has definitely complicated the slowly dawning awareness that I am not interested in exclusive pair bonds. The exclusive dyad is not for me. Honestly, I do enjoy the boundary around the exclusive pair for the first segment of a new relationship. I can see that it provides clarity, safety, focus. I also envision myself being interested in a primary relationship that is at the same time open, both relationally and sexually, to a variety of seconds and thirds. But I have charged forward many times over into exclusive monogamous promises. It is just like the conundrum of the substance addict: "This time it will be different. This time I will successfully manage this monogamy thing. This time, this partner will be the right one. The One." Etc.
The resentment I have toward romantic love is pretty flaming right about now as well. So there's more work to be done there. The ideal of romantic love now seems like a spiritually sick joke to me. I am praying that this disillusionment eventually blossoms into a greater purpose, but for now it is what it is. It just seems to me that romantic love actually has nothing to do with love. Or that it is a tawdry simulacrum of real love. That it has its purpose in drawing me out toward someone, but that it is worth dismissing fairly soon after being drawn out. It reminds me of the Roman semantically depleted Cupid, fat little fucker with a bow. versus the much more potent Eros, primal and potentially fatal.
Anyway, on top of wanting a heart open to Big Love with as many people as come across my path, I also want the possibility of multiple sexual partners. I want to develop this non-monogamy in the freedom of honesty with all people concerned. This feels like one way to heal the shame and guilt based compulsive sexual behavior. In alcoholism, the daily reprieve can only begin with total abstinence, and while I am currently on a "sex vacation," I think the form of abstinence for sex addiction is abstinence from hiding, lying, "cheating." I seem to be guided toward spiritualizing sexuality as a way to relieve it of its burning, compulsive and imperious qualities. The idea of inviting the great reality into sexuality has only recently begun to present itself to me, as my upbringing was characterized by the usual cultural dreariness of shame and guilt surrounding sexuality.
So my choices now are to begin with honesty with myself and others as the constant foundation of all my choices. It has been fascinating to watch my impulses to lie continue to emerge. For example, a woman to whom I am powerfully sexually attracted recently asked me "so are you split up with your girlfriend or what?" My girlfriend and I are separated, but we are still in relationship that is loving and that could in fact open out into a poly and non-monogamous relationship. It was so tempting to say to this woman "Yes, we are," or even to pull that "oh poor me, I am so sad, how brokenhearted I am" bullshit in order to get into her pants! Instead, I did observe this all unfolding in me, and I said "Well, I love her dearly, and we are separated but still figuring things out. I'm non-monogamous and polyamorous, have you heard of this?" The woman was very interested and we ended up having a long conversation about it. I think whatever interest in me she may have had was completely eliminated by the conversation, haha, but at least I kept my side of the street clean.
So that's where things are now. A heart broken open can contain the entire universe. My meditation practice has recently come to incorporate the Brahma Viharas:
May all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness
May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering
May all beings never be separated from bliss without suffering
May all beings be in equanimity, free of bias, anger and attachment
I often repeat these in short form through the day:
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be full of lovingkindness
For the first person pronoun, specific other people or groups can be substituted or the universal form of "all beings."
I have found these meditations to be releasing and liberating during what has been a heart breaking and emotionally turbulent time.
More to come. :-)
PS: thanks to Idealist for encouraging me to blog! It didn't take much. haha.