My Dance With Death

Death can come at anytime. We are fragile human beings; I didn’t know how fragile I was until I woke up in the hospital after 5 days of being sedated so that antibiotics could heal my pneumonia that had gone septic.

It started with what I thought was a simple flu. It came on so quickly, I had lunch out and as I walked up the hill to my home, I felt completely worn out. I went to the doctor and they confirmed it was the flu. 2008 had been a flu season where everybody seemed to get sick and the illness held on for weeks. A week after I was diagnosed I felt worse, went back to the doctor, had no temperature and was again told I had the flu. Two days later I got up to find there was no food in the house. I thought I could make it to the grocery store 7 blocks away. Driving to the store, I sideswiped a bus and a car, but did not stop I did not realize what was happening. Got to the store, went shopping and came out to find my car surrounded by three police cars. They asked me why I had a flat tire. I had been reported for two incidents. Fortunately, I think they were policewoman, saw how sick I was and gave me a ride home, instructing me to come back and have my car towed home. Somewhere after that, I lost awareness and became delirious.

This is where I know a power greater than myself took over. I was found naked in the garage at 1a, my roommate had come home late from work. If he had not found me I would have been dead by morning. They rushed me to the hospital. None of this do I remember. They thought I had a heart attack. My partner was in Denver, and he was immediately called by our neighbors. At 6 am they determined that I had not had a heart attack, that the diagnosis was indeed worse. I had pneumonia that had gone septic and was attacking all my organs. My kidneys had almost shut down.

The next miracle: my partner and I did not have a medical power of attorney. If we had been anywhere but San Francisco, he would not have been allowed in the room. I guess it is important for anyone who is not married or cannot get married to make sure all paper work is in place.

The next thing I remember, I was in a cave in Jerusalem, there were older Jewish woman praying over my body. My partner had died and I did not want to live, so I willed myself, with the help of these woman, to die. I floated over my body and felt extremely peaceful. One more vision had me in a science fiction hospital being ignored by everyone. Finally I realized that if I did not get to a bathroom, I was going to die. In the outer world this is where I pulled the tubes out of my throat and came back to this world. A world that I really didn’t want to be in. I saw a sign that said that I was intensive care. It was Valentine’s day. Being alive was my partners gift for Valentine’s Day. He was not there when I woke up and no one could convince me that he was alive. When he walked in the door, I started sobbing; I wanted to be alive. I wanted to be with him. I found out then that my brother, who is a pulmonary specialist, had flown down, just in time to stop the doctors from moving me to another hospital, which could have been dangerous to my life.

That was the scariest night of my life. I was sure that I could still die and wrestled with God the whole night; telling him that I was not going anywhere. That night the nurses put on music for me, and at that point I had an experience that I know was real and not real at the same time. The music that was playing represented all the partners that I had in my life, and I made peace with all of them. Later I sensed that all the people that had ever been important to me in my life were there. I could not see them, but, I knew they were there. I felt like a wise sage, however, the gift that I was giving them all, was the gift of laughter. I had all of them rolling on the floor laughing. Again I made peace with all those that I felt had harmed me in the past. I had been gay bashed when I was 28 years old, and even the men that had bashed me were in the room. They too, were forgiven. I used to have nightmares several times a week. They stopped.

From that time on, I felt so grateful to be alive, that I walked around in a place of constant peace and acceptance of everything. Many people had great things to say to me, but what I will always remember are the words of my Rabbi. I asked her whether I would hold on to these feelings. She said “most people are lazy, this is not a bad thing, it is just the human condition.” She said to treat this experience as if I had reached bottom in an addiction, now while I was very motivated I could make many changes in my life, and those I could hold on to. She then said that she wanted to pray with me. In Judaism there is a prayer for everything. The prayer she chose was for those who have come back from the other side. She said that her only hesitation is that the prayer had one take responsibility for their illness. I told her immediately that I could live with that. I immediately realized that many times in my life, I had talked about suicide. I now wanted to live. On the way home, the change I realized that I most needed, was to stop judging myself for mistakes or being human. This has not totally stuck, but it is available to me most of the time.

So did the feeling of peace stay with me? Of course, not always. However, when ever I think about this time in my life, I see it as a gift, I am grateful to be alive and I am at peace.

Recovery of a Sex and Porn Addict With the Help of Their Spouse

In my 20 years of dealing with sex addiction and porn addiction, I have recently realized that the chances of success are exponentially improved if the partner of the addict is included in the therapy and recovery process. This is especially true if one or both of them get into 12 step recovery. The addicts that bring in there partner seems to be recovering at a ratio of 5 to one. There are also meetings where the couple can recover together. Those addicts that bring in their partner stay sober at a rate of 5 to 1.

Some of the reasons seem to be:

  • The Partner shows great commitment to the relationship if they agree to be in conjoint therapy.
  • They are able to hold their partner more accountable than the counselor or therapist.
  • They are able to remind the addict that even though the addict is making changes, it will take a long time to regain trust.

The addict should not expect a lot acknowledgment for the first steps they take. The addict commonly says: I don’t understand why she/he is not accepting more, it has been a month.

It may be unconventional but I will treat both the addict and the partner, individually and/or together. Often each one needs a space to explore issues in more depth before they are able to bring it to the couples counseling. I often schedule a 2 hour bloc of time so that they can decide what they need for that day. Given the opportunity the couple does know how their treatment needs to proceed. I will not divulge secrets, but I make clear when I think that they have no choice but to let their partners know the full extent of the addiction. I allow this to happen in their own time. The addict is often surprised that their partner would rather know the full extent of the problems, rather than be kept in the dark. Not disclosing to the partner is one more lie. Partners have great intuition of when they are not being told the full truth.

I remember a particular case where the husband had told his wife almost everything he had done except the use of prostitutes. The wife was pregnant so he was afraid that the info would put her over the top. Though she was deeply hurt that this happened, and even warned that this would be the last straw, in the end she found some solace in finally knowing that she now knew the whole truth. The amazing end of this story is the child has a father: A dad that is totally involved in the mysterious gift of raising a child.

Can Online Porn Become an Addiction?

The new world of pornography starts with a computer. In times past, someone had to leave their home, drive to a store to purchase, rent or watch pornography. Those days ended with the Internet. Now pornography is only one click away. People, mostly men, (though 30% of porn watchers are women) can spend hours a day hiding in front of their computer screen. This behavior is a prerequisite to a diagnosis of sex addiction.

There are several behaviors that are signs of porn addiction. They include some of the following:

  • You fail to meet obligations
  • You watch pornography during work hours
  • You have recurring problems in your relationships
  • You spend lots of money that is probably allocated for basic needs
  • You hide what you do from others
  • Your sex life is less satisfying than your fantasy life

These behaviors are not limited to time online. Fantasy begins to take over one’s life. Men tend to spend much of their waking life thinking about sex. The images that one sees on the computer can be indelibly imprinted in the mind. These fantasies are available 24 hours a day.

Addiction is a way to soothe oneself, when unwanted feelings arise. Men are taught at a very young age that feelings are for women, or sissies. Real men need to be strong, crying is not allowed. When feelings of sadness, anger, or even love arise, men do not know how to react. They will want to reduce the anxiety. The internet will and provide an instant a respite from uncomfortable experiences. The problem is that once the behavior stops the feelings may return. In order to prevent this, more of the addiction is needed.

You may ask yourself: “how do I get out of this vicious cycle?”

Since pornography is done mostly in isolation, the quickest way to begin recovery is to get help from others. The first time one asks for help can be very difficult. The first call for help feels like impossibility. The shame that is involved with this addiction has no boundaries. Alcoholics no longer need to hide their problem. Sex addicts are spurned by the culture and live lonely lives hidden from everyone. The porn addict may not know that they are suffering with millions of other people. Once the first call for help is made a person’s life may change forever.