Ethan is in his forties and grew up in North America. He now works in a financial institution in Singapore, where he lives with his partner of over 20 years.
I’m in a boat, without any oars. The boat is on a river, headed for a waterfall. Maybe somebody will throw me a rope, holding me in place, and not let the boat sail down the river towards the waterfall.
My name is Ethan, and I am a sex addict.
I have been attending 12-step meetings for the past 17 years, as part of a structured programme to help me recover from my addiction. They help me stay sober, and prevent me from acting out sexually with another person who is not my partner. The more meetings I attend, the more support I get for my addiction, and the more ropes I will have in my hands to keep me from falling down the waterfall and losing control over myself.
My addiction is a disease. In many ways, it has been my higher power as well as my best friend. It’s what I could turn to when I feel like I can’t cope with my addiction. It also causes me a lot of pain. It’s unbearable when I see the pain it also causes for Brandon, my partner for more than 20 years, and the man I fell madly in love with when we first met. He’s a loving, caring and wonderful man, who gave me a lot of strength and support for the issues I was dealing with at that time. I knew then that I wanted to be with him, and was willing to do whatever it took to build a relationship with him. After all these years, he’s still my constant.
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I’m actually not very open to talking to others about my addiction. Brandon sometimes wants to hear more about it than I’m even comfortable sharing with him. The support group meetings have a slogan, which goes something like this: “Bring the disease into the room, but take the recovery back to your home.” So for example, when I’m sharing with him, I don’t want him to know about the unpleasant triggers; instead I want to talk about how empowered and strengthened I feel, for example by talking to you right now. In a way, I feel I am in control of what I want to share. I don’t think it’s fair for me to expect him to listen objectively to what I have to say, without having an emotional reaction or attachment to the outcome.
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People who feel that they are happy, in healthy relationships with themselves and their partners, and are not engaged in any form of harmful or destructive behaviours probably wouldn’t need to get help. But I think I am not alone. There must be others out there, especially other gay men, who would prefer not to cheat on their partners, or spend hours on the internet surfing pornography, looking for anonymous partners online, or have unsafe sex with strangers. They might make promises to themselves that they would not do it again, but they go ahead and do it anyway. I have been there and I’ve experienced that. I also know there is a different way of loving myself.
You know you need additional support for yourself when you begin to realize that your life is becoming unmanageable, and it is somehow related to some form of sexual activity. But you decide what is unmanageable. It could be feeling exhausted in the mornings because you had been up all night having online cybersex or surfing porn websites, and then not being able to function at work the next day as a result; or maybe it’s spending money that you can’t afford, on sex toys, escort and sexual massage services; or you find that you are cheating on your partner, and you feel guilty about it.
Just know that you are not alone.
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The above passages are excerpts from Ethan’s full story, which can be read in the e-book.