How I married a sex addict, and other symptoms of swine flu
First some disclaimers.
This is my story. Mine, Mine, Mine. I’m writing it because, that’s what I do. I write. I share my life. It’s how I have learned to cope. And keeping this secret for as long as I have has done incredible damage to me. It’s time to come clean, not just for me, but for my children, and other people out here who may be suffering similarly.
Yes, my children know about it. No, we won ‘t be reading it aloud at bedtime. Yes, they are coping, but if you see them at Costco don’t ask them questions, they’ve already been through enough. He may have messed me over, but he’s still there father. And for all intents and purposes, he’s trying to be a better one.
Yes, I am still married, for now, (or at least until the recession is over). No, I didn’t ask my husband’s permission to write this. Yeah, I’m totally okay with that. No, I won’t be sharing any gory details of his exploits. This story is about me, he can write his own blog.
The characters in this story are not fictional. These are facts as I remember them. If you recognize anyone, please don’t try to be a hero, I can fight my own battles. (Well, at least I can now.)
I have been trying to write this post for many, many months. And every time I did I was overwhelmed by my own story. (That’s telling huh?) So, I have decided to take a new approach. We’re just going to go with an overview, a highlight, (lowlight), reel if you will. Please refrain from drawing psychological conclusions from my brevity, (and I mean in the details because this post certainly isn’t short!) I assure you I am not avoiding the details, just trying to write a post that won’t turn into War and Peace.
Deep breath… Here we go.
I was born and immediately put up for adoption. Not a big deal. It happened to a lot of us babies in the 70’s. I was in a foster home for only 5 weeks and then I was adopted. All was good. My adoptive parents are my parents, completely. I have always felt their love and support. Fast forward to nursery school. This is where my story really begins. There was a teachers’ assistant. (At least that’s what my faint recollection of her is.) I was 4. She had been talking to me about something special she wanted me to do for a bit of time. I really didn’t understand what she was talking about, but was so eager to please that I didn’t want her to know that and think less of me. On this fateful day she once again told me what she had in store for me, and I followed her throughout the school looking for the right partner. For what, I still did not understand. We finally found a classmate of mine, a little boy with curly hair and glasses. She took the two of us into a closet and commanded us to do her bidding. We were the puppets and she was the master. She commanded that we perform, what I now know to be sex acts initiated by a sick and depraved woman. But then they were just confusing, uncomfortable activities that I had to partake in for an adult I admired and desperately wanted to be my friend. I remember the pounding on the door, which was as loud as the pounding of my heart in my chest. The lead teacher was trying to get in. I felt relief, shame and worry. Instinctively I was aware that I had done something wrong. I wasn’t sure if it was my fault, though regardless I was very sorry. However, she got away with it. That’s the short story. She lost her job, but that was it. She got away, but I didn’t.
I was scarred for life, but I didn’t know it. How could I, I was only 4. How could I understand that her depraved actions had set me on a sexual path that would lead me to make choices of degradation and self destruction. How could I possibly know? Well, I didn’t. And I didn’t. And I didn’t. But I do now. But not before I befell a vast number of pitfalls. My sexual maturation was filled with them.
It was not long after my nursery school incident that I experienced more abuse; by a classmates’ step father, an adult cast-mate in a theatrical production, and a teen age neighbor boy. My youth was filled with incident after incident. I was a magnet for them. (That’s what I realize now.) My victimization at such a young age had changed me. It had imprinted on me a state of victimization that I acted out, as if a part in a play, over, and over, and over, without ever understanding that the script could be changed. Surreal actually, since I was the daughter of two social workers, and known for my empathy and intuition regarding other peoples problems. I could sniff out a child molester when it pertained to other people. During an evening rehearsal for The Wiz, when I was just 15, I watched a man talk at a young girl in the community center we were working in. The look on her face told me everything I needed to know, even without the soundtrack. When she and her mother uncomfortably got up to leave the man followed after them, quickly and purposefully, out of the building. I didn’t even blink, I took off after him, fully outfitted in my Dorothy costume for the show. I chased the molester, who was chasing the young girl who was following her small mother, down Madison’s city streets, right past the open window of the local bar, in my ruby red slippers. (When the also costumed Cowardly Lion followed after me at a full clip, the die hard drinkers pushed their mugs aside and headed for the door). Just as I was going to reach the molester the Lion grabbed him before I could, but most importantly, before he could grab the girl. I don’t know what I was intending to do. The police asked me that very question when they arrived later. I didn’t know anything surely, except that I had to act when I saw that little girls face.
It has always been that way for me. I am the first to go tearing down the block in my ruby red slippers to fight injustice for others, especially children. Deep down I always wanted someone to do that for me. Deep down I longed for a Cowardly Lion, or, better yet, a not so Cowardly Lion to stand up for me. Deep down I really wanted to be loved, but life left me feeling that I wasn’t worthy.
During that same show, The Wiz, my 15th year, I fell in love for the first time. It was everything you read about, fireworks and all. We held hands. We snuck kisses in the doorway. We wrote love notes and pasted them on each other’s doors. You get picture. It was like a movie. Well, it was more like the length of a movie. Within 6 weeks my beloved was flaunting a secondary relationship with a girl who sang in the chorus. And I do mean flaunting. As if I meant nothing. And that is exactly how I felt, like I was nothing. Like this was final proof of that fact. I can still feel the pain in my gut, the one that had me rolling on my attic floor crying out with raw desperation. But I stayed around and took whatever he tossed my way, off and on… for years.
This evolution really wasn’t surprising. My entire elementary and High School experience, up until that relationship, had been disastrous, from a budding love stand point. As the only black child in an all white catholic school I was an outsider. When my classmates went through normal crushes, first boyfriends and the like, I was never on anyone’s “best” list. Not even on the “if I was the only girl on a deserted island” go to list. Worse yet, they weren’t shy about letting me know where I stood, which was at the bottom of the elementary school social hierarchy heap. I was ugly and undesirable. That’s what they wanted me to know. And I sure got the message. So when I found love at age 15 I was so thankful. I thought for a moment that all of the other years were just an anomaly. But then reality set in, in the form of a chorus girl, and I had to concede to my true status label, “Undesirable”. (Well undesirable as a girlfriend. As a sexual dalliance, that was a different story. Overtures were often made in dark closets, but never in the light of day.)
Yet despite all of that my senior year a great miracle happened, the most popular boy in my class asked me out. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. And thus I was off again, falling head over heals in love. This was very fairytale like. So melodious. It helped that he was a musician. We were a great artistic pairing. From the stage to the prom. Magical. But then my brother died, and we graduated High School, and I got pneumonia, and he turned to drugs and then… he turned to other girls, and away from me. Once again I was the undesirable one. Oh, but I hung in there, just as I had before. Simply thankful for scraps, because I dreaded being completely alone. It took all of my strength to break away from that entanglement years later. I was so terrified. I relapsed many times. But after several more instances of humiliation I finally stayed down. Less playing dead than actually feeling dead, inside. I was 21 years old
Fast forward to less than a year later, Los Angles, post college. I’m at a German pub, listening to jazz music, feeling a little free. In walks the next, and longest chapter of my life. His first words, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”. His next line, “Can I get your number before the girl I’m waiting for arrives?”. Looking back now I can see all of the warning signs. As if watching a movie, I yell at the screen, “don’t go with him!”. But alas, there’s no editing these frames. I walked into his apartment and into my future of my own free will. Well, except for the being damaged goods part, and thus not really possessing a complete understanding of my own self worth, free will.
The thing is, he never lied to me. (Well, not about who and what he was, just about pesky details.) Very early in our relationship he told me that all men are dogs; some are strays, and some are house pets. He forgot one category, the “some are housepets who sneak out to work the streets like a carefree stray before coming back to exploit the creature comforts of a home” category. But he never lied to me. That’s something he keeps reminding me of. (Or taunting me with, I can’t tell the difference.) He says I am the one who lied, because I said that I was okay with all of “this”. That I encouraged him. That I said I understood. He does have a point. I did say things to that effect when faced with untenable situations involving his exploits. I was so afraid to lose him that I was willing to sacrifice myself under a bus filled with other women.
As promised, (or threatened), I’m not going to get into gory details. But the cliff notes version is that not only have I suffered from his sexual addiction, but from his psychological manipulation as well. He was a master at making me feel as though I was the root of his evil. That it was all my fault. If I would just talk differently, dress differently, eat differently, and of course, the big one, weigh less, then life would be different. And I was hooked. Line and sinker. It was my fault. I was the problem. Loving me was a chore. I was lucky that even the likes of him would take on the job.
My entire adult life I have worked to empower women, children, families, to see beauty and potential in themselves and never underestimate their own self-worth. I have championed causes and protected interests, for everyone, but myself. And that’s how I lived. Bold and full of smiles in the public eye, belittled and depressed in private. Until…until the secret wasn’t a secret any longer. My husband’s proclivities and sense of entitlement tripped him up, and he was unmasked… to my children.
Here, 35 years later, I had arrived at the mountaintop of my abuse. I was at home in my shame and degradation. I was at the end of the path that I began walking at age 4. Yes, that’s pretty dramatic. But the truth is it is/was that dramatic. My life was turned upside down and shaken out all over the living room rug. Everything I thought I knew about myself, and what I was made of, was totally dismantled when I looked into my children’s eyes and saw pity. Pity, disrespect, shame, and sadness. I thought that I had protected them. I thought I did what was in their best interest by staying in a marriage that wasn’t healthy for me, but gave them two parents. I thought I was being a good mother. But I wasn’t…any of that. I failed. I failed them, and I definitely failed myself. Worse, I failed that little 4 year old in the closet who didn’t deserve the script she was handed in the first place.
What I have come to realize is that if I am truly going to be a good mother then I must be good to myself. It is just as important that my children see me loved and respected as anything else that I model for them. Because my relationship choices will imprint on them, whether either of us like it or not. I don’t ever want them to walk a path anywhere near the one that I walked from age 4 to 39. I’d just as soon give up my life. NO, to be the kind of parent that I always wanted to be now means that I may have to be a single parent, at least in household. (That is as soon as we can get out from under these medical and housing bills. But that’s a different discussion.) My husband is not a monster. He shouldn’t be pierced with a stick, or flogged in the town square. He’s a flawed man, like so many others…Tiger…just sayin’. (People are inherently flawed. The real question is are they human beings with flaws, or is their being the sum of their flaws. That’s something you have to decide on a case by case basis. It’s a very personal decision and it’s not the same for everyone.) My husband’s an addict. But he’s my children’s father and that counts, for a lot. However, I have to stand up for myself, and stay strong and true to this new path, no matter how dark and scary it may appear. For the truth is, this path carries more light than any other path that I have walked previously.
The moral of this story… well I think there are probably a few. But the main one for me is that I matter, but I can only matter to the World if I matter to myself, and that matters to my children, so I have to take matters into my own hands, as a matter of fact.
I want a second chance. More than that, I really think I deserve one. I want to find love, give love, and most importantly, receive love. Truly, madly, deeply. No more swallowing pain. No more shouldering all of the burdens. This time I want a co-pilot, not a passenger. (I’m not Driving Miss Daisy.) But there’s no magic wand here. This is real life. And real life can be messy and complicated. So, at the moment I am up in the air, waiting for circumstances to change so I can land my feet firmly on the ground. But hey, that’s a lot better than being underground in a rabbit hole dug with secrets. And I will keep flapping my wings, with my face to the sun, for as long as it takes to find a rainbow, my own rainbow, to rest on. Because it’s time to let that four year old little girl out of the closet, and into life.
Important side note. I tell my children that though I am on this journey of self discovery and healing, I don’t regret my life. The reason being, if I hadn’t walked the path that I walked I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, and I kind of like who I have grown to be. I not only like me, I am really proud of me. But most importantly, If I hadn’t married my husband I wouldn’t be the mother to my three glorious children, and I would never do anything to change that. I would suffer several lifetimes over if need be as long as I get to be their mother. It’s totally worth it.