Michael, Male, 41 Written by Viknesan
I was a high-flying and high-profile civil servant who lectured and taught many students over the years. Yet I felt like a hypocrite because I had kept a dark secret since I was 23 years old. It is not one of your more publicly known addictions like drugs, alcohol or even gambling. It’s something I would never reveal to my closest friends or in a recovery group. Even medical professionals don’t fully understand how it works and why some people develop it.
I have a sexually compulsive disorder that is sometimes called a sex addiction. I watched porn daily for long hours and visited commercial and illegal sex workers on a regular basis. From chatting with women online through various web chat platforms, I progressed to actually meeting some of them, going by my alter ego Sam. My activities affected my work and sleep over the years. I was also worried about contracting some awful sexually transmitted diseases even though I always practised safe sex. Time and again, I would get tested at the Kelantan Lane clinic, feeling relieved when the results were negative, and telling myself that I wouldn’t do it again.
But when I got hit by stressors that I couldn’t manage, I fell back on to my sex addiction. It felt like I was living a double life. To my friends, family and colleagues, I was this pleasant, jovial and shy individual. Some even thought and joked that I was a virgin. They didn’t know that Sam, a wild character with no respect for women he had sexual encounters with, was lying and cheating them. Many of the women whom I met on the Internet and started a relationship with didn’t know it was all about the chase for me. I was never loyal or exclusive to any one of them. This addiction was costing me around $3000-$4000 a month. At times, I nearly wiped out my salary. This was outrageous. At first, I told myself that I was a single guy staying with my parents, and this was normal at my age. When I settled down, things would be fine; and maybe I would even have a permanent relationship with one of the women I met. That never happened, and I realised over time that it was not normal. I was just fooling myself.
One day, it hit me that I couldn’t keep this façade going. I had to deal with it before my worsening behaviour made me do something illegal. I hesitantly picked up the phone, hanging up a few times when the helpline counsellor answered it. I finally picked up the courage to speak to them and saw a counsellor. The counsellor reassured me that our conversations were confidential unless I was a danger to myself or society. I realised after seeking help that I was not the only one struggling with this illness. I worked closely with the counsellor to help myself. I struggled so many times and had multiple relapses. There were times I wanted to drop out of treatment and asked myself, “How can I stop having sex, which is a basic human need?” Then I realised it was not about avoiding sex, but learning to develop true intimacy with a stable partner.
My counsellor had a lot of patience and told me to soldier on. I recalled him asking me not to consider the relapse as a failure but as a learning opportunity to improve. Recovery is work in progress. I am in my early forties now, and I’ve stayed away from destructive sexual activities for one year since. But I also know that if I get complacent, my addiction will come back with a vengeance.
Unlike drugs, alcohol and gambling, sexual activity is not something you can totally abstain from. The goal, however, is to engage in a healthy sexual relationship with someone I value and respect. I even started attending support groups for people with similar struggles. It’s going to be a long and difficult road ahead, but with new knowledge and the help and resources that have come my way, I am a little more confident and optimistic about overcoming my challenges. I have actually been in a stable relationship for the last three months. I am not going to mess this up.
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