Monday, April 15, 2013
Guest Blog .... "What I Learned From Dating A Porn Addict With Bipolar Disorder"
The journey of healing from sex and porn addiction that Craig and I have been on has certainly been an interesting one. It has provided us with such amazing growth, awareness, presence, connection and a new passion to help others. It has led us to some amazing women, some amazing men and some amazing couples!!! I love how once Craig and I talk about what we do for a living (coaching men, women and couples to heal from this addiction) and openly tell people our story how people feel incredibly comfortable reaching out for support. I wanted to share this story from an AMAZING WOMAN, a friend of mine, who decided to write down her story, what she learned and share it with others. I am sooo proud of her and I know this blog needed to be shared ... THANK YOU my friend for putting yourself out there, it is so incredibly brave!!!
"What I Learned From Dating A Porn Addict With Bipolar Disorder"
If you’re reading this, thank you. I assume it is because you are either dealing with something similar, know someone in this situation, or frankly are just curious about my experiences; any of which are perfectly OK with me.
I decided to speak about my experiences because they matter. They matter because they happened to me and because I am a human being with feelings that need to be expressed. They also matter because too many men and women are going through this same thing and sometimes we just need to hear someone talk about an experience that we are all too familiar with, but sometimes are scared to say out loud. It’s important to talk about this in a way that doesn’t shame the addict, and doesn’t victimize the partner opposite of an addict.
Writing this is a healing process for me. The shock of my break-up and the reasons behind it are still very real and hard for me. I don’t aim to air my dirty laundry for pity, or cast negative light on someone I still love very much, but rather to hopefully inspire the motivation for change in others who might be struggling with a porn addiction.
My situation is unique and especially hard because not only did my ex have a deeply rooted porn addiction, he is also severely bipolar. Two dangerous diseases that often feed off of each other.
But before I speak about what I went through and what I ultimately learned, it’s important to share a little bit about myself and my situation first:
I am a 21year old college student who works in marketing, loves her friends and family, who is always happy, who has the sense of humor of a teenage boy and has a therapist for a mom. (That bit is important for later). I am an average individual dealing with a remarkably hard situation, just like many of you.
I met my ex through a photography concert contest, as his competitor. We had never met before. He won the contest and ended up taking me to said concert as a nice gesture; we began dating shortly after.
Like any new relationship, the passion was undeniable. It was a lot of sex and A LOT of time spent together. Disclaimer: (understand that if I am going to speak about a porn addiction and you are choosing to read about it, you are going to have to hear a lot about sex. And that’s ok, because sex isn’t bad, and it’s not the problem in my ex’s porn addiction. It’s natural and in the right context, it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing that two people do).
Soon after our relationship began, however, it became very clear that something was not right. Six months into our relationship sex became not so easy. Sex with my ex was never emotional, nor was it realistic, but I attributed the sexual expectations he had to the fact that he was a 24 year old guy who was just into some weird things. Wrong. There were very definitive signs about his porn addiction that I chose to ignore. The subconscious reasons behind why I ignored those signs are part of my recognized co-dependency and overall want to love and be loved back. (Thankfully, I have learned to be very self-aware. Most likely because a have a parent who is a Therapist).
In any relationship, knowing yourself for the good and the bad is what will enable you to be a healthy individual; one of sound mind and body and will allow you to maintain relationships. Ultimately, this is what saved me.
Part of my ex’s bipolar disorder was that he was always brutally honest. Perhaps the one good thing about his addiction and mental deficiency was that he had to be honest with me 100% of the time, even if that meant it hurt me. His bipolar disorder was a clear cycle that I learned to read, understand and accept each month. Each phase of his emotional cycle was dictated and controlled by his bipolar disorder but was deeply influenced by his porn addiction.
For the first week and a half each cycle, he was manic. I called this the, ‘on top of the world’ phase. In this phase he would constantly clean, organize and maintain a great schedule with anything and anyone. His Facebook posts often said things like, “Life is so great!” or, “Work is so kickass lately!” He was feeling good during this phase. There usually wasn’t a problem he couldn’t fix. He was also his usual hilarious self and continuously made everyone laugh. During this phase he could also manage to be romantic with me. He wanted to cuddle all the time, hold my hand, etc. We could go out places together and appear as the perfect couple to those who observed our body language towards each other. I viewed this as his authentic self. I longed for this phase, yet it was always the shortest.
His manic, on top of the world phase was so important to me because that was also the only time we could have meaningful sex. Sex where ultimately he could climax. (If you know anything about porn addiction you know that climaxing during intercourse for some addicts is nearly impossible. A lot of them are so used to masturbation that they can rarely experience an orgasm from sex with a partner. Note: everyone is different, this is just my particular experience).
About a week after the manic phase started, it would begin to fade. Phase two, the, ‘unsure of anything’ phase would soon set in, and it was always a good indicator of how phase three, the worst of them all, was going to look. The unsure of anything phase was troubling but not unmanageable. Sex in this phase was a lot of expecting me to act like a porn star and rarely any emotion; it also meant no climaxing for him during sex because he was watching excess amounts of porn when I wasn’t around.
Each time this phase occurred it would be like clockwork that he would complain that someone or something was being unfair to him, or taking advantage of him and it was almost always in regards to business. He would complain a lot that people weren’t respecting him, or were simply not giving him the opportunities he felt he deserved. In this phase he also was very calm. Not necessarily a lack of energy, just calm. He would get irritated with me (and pretty much everything else) easily and therefore he usually had no desire to go out, not even on dates with me. During this phase we spent a lot of time watching movies and working in the same room, essentially keeping each other company. This phase was really just a lot of being in each other’s presence, but hardly connecting. This phase usually lasted about a week.
It wasn’t long before phase two of his bipolar cycle ended and ushered in the third and worst phase of them all. The, “I think I want to break up with you because I’m tired of living like this, but can’t decide if that’s what I want” phase. This phase was worse than it would be for someone else who was only bipolar because it was totally dictated by porn. This phase shattered my confidence every time without fail. During this phase, sex was out of the question. If he had any sexual desire at all it was always directed to porn. He would always have zero energy and feel as though the direction of his life was going nowhere; his literal rock bottom. This was the phase where he would occasionally tell me what his ex-girlfriend’s used to do sexually with him, (usually something I wouldn’t do) in a not so subtle attempt to direct why are our relationship wasn’t working at me.
The worst part of this phase was the part where he felt like we needed to break-up, but couldn’t decide if that’s actually what he wanted. Many people with bipolar disorder struggle with severe low points, such as this one, but because porn was so heavily ingrained in his brain, it controlled almost all of his emotions towards interpersonal relationships. Occasionally he would have moments of clarity where he would tell me that he knew that his bipolar disorder and porn addiction were to blame for all the hurtful things he was saying. Because his bipolar disorder made him so brutally honest, he would literally tell me everything that went through his head about me, good or bad. Not to be cruel, but because he couldn’t help it, and because it was what porn was telling him to think about me; his bipolar just made it hard to keep in his head.
The influence of his disease and addiction within his thinking process was true- his brain, like the brain of every bipolar and porn addict is neurologically wired with chaos and not always capable of rational thinking. He knew that he needed to get help. Those moments of clarity, however, were very seldom.
Each time this cycle occurred, it meant that inevitably we would have a conversation about if it was fair that we were still dating. That conversation usually looked like this: I cry and beg him to reconsider and he plays the broken victim and the, ‘it’s me not you” card.
During this phase he would also call my mom. My mom is a licensed therapist and since he doesn’t have health insurance she was his makeshift confidant. (Legally, she was not his therapist because that is unethical, so rather she was a friend to him who just happened to be a therapist). She would do her very best each time to shine light on what thoughts were his bipolar and what was not. Each time he would end a conversation with her, he would say the same thing: “On paper she [me] is perfect. She is funny, beautiful, has a great personality, my family loves her, I love her family and she is the only one who has ever loved me truly for me, but there just isn’t chemistry so that must mean it’s not meant to be, and each time my mom would tell him that was the most classic porn addict line in the books.
Often times people would ask him why he wasn’t taking medication anymore after 17 years of taking a plethora a medications to treat his bipolar. It had been 6 years since he stopped taking medication and he thought he had a handle on his disease, which is ultimately why he decided to stop taking them in the first place. In his defense, growing up meant that his brain changed and morphed into the brain of an adult, and when he became an adult medications weren’t totally necessary.
About a year and 3 months into our relationship, however, he suffered a total psychological break down that forced him to go back on medications. Those medications turned him into a totally different person who was virtually a robot. After a month, we both knew that for himself and for our relationship, it was better to deal with the consequences of bipolar disorder than for him to continue to live in a state of walking vegetation. During that month that he was deeply medicated, he could barely focus, talk, often looked off into the distance, couldn’t work and couldn’t even look at porn, let alone kiss or make love to me. That was how I knew he needed to stop taking that particular medication. (As a result of that experience, he was no desire to try any more medications).
The last component to my relationship with my ex was that he was living in a total fantasy world, which enabled his diseases to thrive.
My ex is the younger brother of a very famous, internationally known rock musician/lead singer and often toured and worked with his brother and his band. This lifestyle promoted a single, alcohol filled life that provided countless women throwing themselves at the band and crew, and booze to cover all problems. My ex knew this wasn’t the life he wanted for himself in the long run, but he made great money and because of his bipolar, he could barely handle minimal change, let alone big change like quitting a job thousands would probably kill for, for a 9-5 job.
His brother, who is 12 years older than my ex and who has struggled with substance abuse and addiction himself, helped cast a light on what my ex’s life would look like if he didn’t get help now. So he quit tour-life and settled into a marketing job.
Our break-up came as such a surprise because I viewed the signs of the end of our relationship as just another low point; another phase that I had dealt with each month before. However, this time it was different. My ex has reached his rock bottom. He left a job he loved, realized our relationship was literally imploding because of his addiction and was feeling pressure to move out of his parents’ house. All of those things created the trigger that prompted him to end our relationship. This time, he told me that we needed to take a break so that he could finally get help. In that moment, I couldn’t rationally think or be excited that he finlly accepted his addiction and wanted to get help. I was so devastated that I told him a break was, ‘total fucking bullshit’ and that we were done for good. Like so many other women and men who are partners to addicts, I was furious with his decision. Although I was thrilled he wanted to get help and knew it was the right choice, I felt I had sacrificed so much for person I loved and that it wasn’t fair.
After the dust settled, we were able to talk and lay out a game plan. Though we tried to say we were on a break while he healed, ultimately he didn’t lose enough, and went right back into the same place. I couldn’t sit back and watch him self-destruct. The way he treated me as a result of his addictions ate away at my confidence and I finally knew I had to walk away. It was my only choice. Addicts often don’t truly realize they need help until they lose everything.
This is break up is still extremely recent, and is still extremely hard. We do remain each other’s biggest support systems from a-far, and are still very close. The hope is that after all is said and done and he is in recovery after his treatment program, we can try again. Just he, I, and no porn.
People often argue that we who complain about watching porn are prudes, so I’d like to take a moment to provide some education and shut that argument right down. Addiction to Pornography robs the addict of authenticity. It creates an image of what men and especially women should look like, act like, and have sex like; none of which are realistic or healthy. An addiction to porn is really no different than any other addiction, like an addiction to drugs for instance. The drug addict is constantly chasing a new, better high. They achieve that through more doses and stronger, different and often worse drugs, just to obtain a familiar high. Porn addiction is no different. What starts as watching two people have sex on camera in a safe consensual setting soon becomes not enough. To achieve a continual high, an addiction to porn more often than not opens doors to dark, dangerous images that exploit women, men and even children.
The line between enjoying porn occasionally and sexually depending on it is very thin. Addiction to porn is a coping mechanism and a way to avoid dealing with other problems.
I know many of you are thinking the same thing. If this relationship was so bad, why did I stay, especially from those who know me and know of my roots in feminism and female empowerment. You’re absolutely right to ask that question, and that brings me to the most important part of why I shared my story.
It’s important to know that I don’t look at myself as a victim or as someone that everyone should pity, because ultimately I chose to stay in that relationship. I accepted it for what it was, even if it was subconscious. If you are in my same position, or are in a relationship with an addict currently, you need to understand that you are not a victim either, and that’s harsh, I know.
See, while we didn’t subconsciously choose the ones we love, in this case I am referring to the addict, we chose them in part because usually our pickers aren’t great. I mean, who would be willing to date an addict. I do know that for many of us, the signs of addiction weren’t clear until well into the relationship, but we can’t fully say that we didn’t know he or she was addicted to porn. Unfortunately there are signs. Signs we all see, whether we choose to accept them or not.
I say this not to make you feel badly. That’s the last thing I want. Believe me, I know what badly feels like. I’m still feeling that, as I am sure many of you are. I say this rather to help you develop a game plan. The one thing that will get in the way of your track to healing and addressing the situation is yourself. If you let yourself be victimized by someone else’s choice, you’re giving that person power that they don’t deserve.
You can change your hair and your partner will still be an addict. You can lose weight, get liposuction or botox and your partner will still be an addict. You can have sex like a porn star and compromise your morals and what you are comfortable with sexually and your partner will STILL be a porn addict. The problem is not you. It is them. And you’re not a victim. You’re a good person in a bad situation.
It is also important to understand that just because you want your partner to change, doesn’t mean they will. You can’t guilt them, threaten them or beg them. They will not change if they don’t want too; if they don’t feel like they have something to lose. It is only when they lose everything that they have no choice but to get their life in order.
There is no right way to go about loving an addict, but of a few things I am sure: If they don’t want to get help, they won’t get better. That’s where you have to decide if staying in a relationship with that person is worth it. If they do choose to get help, that doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to make it work. The most important thing to you should not be if they get sober or not, it should be ensuring your happiness above anything else. You must honor your authentic self and compromising your truth for an addict is not being true to your authentic self.
My plan for loving an addict is that I don’t have a plan. By default, I am a planner of every detail, so not having control of the situation was enough to almost break me. But I won’t let it break me, though. Because I love myself more than I love an addict’s love. Porn won’t define me. I am beautiful and smart and have so much to give.
Be true and never lose sight of your most valuable asset. Yourself.