The Internet is an amazing, powerful tool. It enables people from around the world to connect instantly. It allows vitally important information to be exchanged faster than at any time in human history. Medical records can be accessed and exchanged with a single keystroke. People in far-flung parts of the world can get educated—from the elementary level all the way through graduate school—simply by logging on and doing the work. Bills can be paid, shopping can be done and you can even order a taxi that will show up in less than 10 minutes, all thanks to the Internet.
For me, however, the instantaneous nature of the Internet became the gateway to something that I neither desired nor sought: sex addiction.
Personal Story Of Innocent Internet Surfing That Opened Up The Doors Of Sex Addiction
Twelve years ago, I went through a period in my life when I was unable to do much but sit around and surf the Internet. I had three knee surgeries in the space of eight months, and on one of my boring, lonely days, after I’d done my rehab exercises and was poking around the Internet, I discovered the wide and wonderful world of Internet chat rooms. It began innocently enough: I visited chat rooms on topics that interested me—sports, books, yoga, martial arts and age-group rooms such as “30s only” and the like.
Then, in a “City Chat” room for the city in which I lived at the time, I began private messaging with a woman around my age who was really fun. The conversation got flirty, and she told me to check out her profile—she’d posted a picture just for me. I had a look, and what I found was very suggestive. When I returned to the instant message, she asked me if I’d ever “cybered,” and I said no, I had no idea what she was talking about. One thing led to another, and that day I had my first experience with cybersex.
At that point in my life, I had never even ventured into the world of Internet porn—I still don’t, to be honest. It’s just not for me. However, as a writer, with cybersex I found something that combined two things I really loved: sex and writing.
Combined with my addictive personality—I had joined AA about 10 years earlier to handle my problems with alcohol and NA about five years earlier to handle my problems with substances—the confluence of the Internet, sex and writing was a recipe for disaster, and before I knew it, presto! I had a new addiction in my life.
While I was recovering from my knee surgeries, I spent hours a day going to sex chat rooms and seeking partners to exchange instant messages with. I didn’t think there was any problem at all. I was unmarried and I wasn’t in a relationship. It was just me and the computer and some harmless activity between consenting adults. When I fully recovered from knee surgery and my life got busy again, I rarely went back to the rooms. Life resumed as normal. I eventually got married and had a child—and then my marriage went south.
From The Internet To The Real Life World
To make a long story short, my activity online spelled the end of my marriage. The details are unimportant—what’s important to understand is that my inability to control my urge to go online and connect with people in a sexual way had a negative impact on my life and led to divorce.
After my divorce, my focus shifted from chat rooms to dating websites, and patterns that previously ended online began to end live, in person. I’d meet women online, then meet them in person and act out. I still didn’t think there was any problem—consenting adults making decisions to do adult things according to their own rules.
I realized I had a problem when I was unable to stop my online activity after meeting a woman I really liked. I fell hard for her, and we began a relationship. But I was unable to stop going on dating websites and meeting other women. I kept acting out for almost six months after beginning my relationship.
She finally caught me: one day, I accidentally left my email open on my computer, and she dropped by my place and saw a message from a dating website. It was not a great day. I realized that what I was doing was hurting someone about whom I cared deeply, and it was all because I was addicted to sex. What had started online had made its way into the brick-and-mortar, flesh-and-blood world, and my actions, my addiction, my inability to control myself and my powerlessness all came to a point at which I realized I needed help.
After visiting several different 12-step programs geared toward sex addiction, I found a meeting that fit perfectly in my life: the time was right, the location was right and the approach was right. Slowly, I began to peel back the layers of the onion and understood that my sex addiction was intertwined with issues with love and intimacy, and that the addictions to alcohol and substances I’d previously developed were symptomatic coping mechanisms that masked the true, underlying facts of my life that I needed to face honestly, directly and unflinchingly.
With the help of my program and my fellowship, I’ve been able to heal the problems that have been plaguing me for years, and I’m making progress, just as they say in the program, one day at a time.