My Journey to Peace
The Depths of Despair
Seven years ago, there was a great gulf between the needs and desires of my conscious mind and those of my subconscious mind. Although I was sexually attracted to other men, I was mostly in denial and did not fully recognize it. I frequented a park where gay men often met, because I “wanted to get some sun.” I hungered for attention from men and, once at the park, found myself powerless to leave until someone came along and offered me some of the attention I craved. My cravings were not for sex, they were for male attention. Unfortunately, those who provided that attention were not willing to leave it at attention and often forced the issue.
This pattern had started much earlier in my life when I was innocently enjoying the sun, under doctor’s orders to help my skin condition, and some older men took advantage of my vulnerability. While this would have been termed abuse, it did not seem like abuse to a young teenager who wanted male attention. Even though there was a part of me that felt that this was wrong, there was a part of me that hungered for love and affection from a “father figure.”
I prayed every night for strength to overcome my “weaknesses,” without naming them. Though I prayed for years, those prayers seemed to be going unanswered. I struggled with the same issues, week after week, year after year.
An Answer to Prayer
Then one day, though still largely in denial of my real problem, as I pondered on the fact that I was not happy with life, I realized that I needed a close friend. Somehow I knew that this needed to be a male friend and that my wife would not do. I mentally reviewed the roster of men I knew and could not find a single person on that roster with whom I had enough in common to become close friends. Sometimes I had found someone that I was close to but his wife didn’t really care for my wife, so our relationship never fully developed. As I somehow deeply felt the need for such a friend, I prayed, more earnestly than usual, pleading with the Lord to bring someone into my life with whom I could develop a deep friendship.
Not long afterwards, a family moved into my church. I felt an immediate kinship with the father in this family. We were exactly the same age and had children of similar ages. Although I felt drawn to him, I wasn’t sure he would feel the same towards me. But amazingly, he returned my love and became my dearest and closest friend. He shared with me some of his deepest thoughts and struggles, things he shared with no one else outside his family.
What was amazing to me was that while I found much in him to admire and to be attracted to, he found much in me to be admired and he was very good at telling me, very specifically, those things about me which he admired and which he wanted to develop within himself. My attraction to him was not a physical one, although he is a good looking man. It was at a much deeper level. Getting to know him and spending time with him was the beginning of the development of my self esteem.
Out of the Closet of My Mind
I continued through this period to struggle with my homosexual behavior, which had developed into a habit. I was giving volunteer service in my church at the time and felt the conflict developing within myself but seemed unable to do anything about it. I did not understand why I did what I did and I did not know how to stop it.
Things went from bad to worse in my life. My marriage seemed empty. I felt like a failure as a father and a husband. I could see problems developing in my children. My job wasn’t going the way I wanted. As I became more and more isolated, I became more and more depressed. I worked for a remote office of an out-of-state organization, and I began “cruising” for homosexual partners at lunch time and would be gone for hours. While I knew that I could get into trouble for this if anyone found out, I seemed powerless to change my behavior and after I went to a place to cruise, I seemed to lose total control of myself. It was as though there was another person taking charge of my body. I could see what was going on but I couldn’t control it or change it.
It was at one of these cruising locations that I began running into another man I recognized — from my church. He was married and had several children. As embarrassing as it was for both of us, we finally talked. Unlike me, he had admitted to himself that he had a problem. He was seeing a therapist and attending group meetings and had talked with his bishop (pastor). I began to consciously recognize that I too had a problem and that I needed to find help. I came out of the closet of my mind.
I took a hard look at myself and realized that I could not go on living a lie. I hated myself for the things I felt and did. I determined that something would have to change or I could not continue living. I wept for hours.
Recognizing the need to get help, I went to my own bishop and finally confessed my secret double life. Over the coming six months, I worked a formal repentance program with him, placing myself in a position of emotional vulnerability and accountability as I gave him regular progress reports. I welcomed his concern and attention, but feared he was offering it only out of a sense of duty.
Healing the Child Within
Somewhere along the line, my bishop suggested professional counseling. The first two therapists I tried turned out to be miserable experiences. Finally I found a local therapist who taught me how to do inner child therapy. I felt that I could not continue to see him due to the cost, but I continued my inner child therapy on my own.
If I were to describe the benefits of inner child therapy I would put it this way: Prior to this, I was faced with a lot of inner conflict. There was the conscious, adult part of me that wanted to live the gospel and be a valiant member of Christ’s church. But there was another part of me, call it my wounded inner child. It was deeply repressed so as to not feel pain.
It began as a child when I was abandoned and abused. As a child I could not handle such abuse because it felt like it was directly related to my identity. If I was abused, it must be because I deserved it.
That was such a painful feeling that I repressed it and everything connected with it. But the feelings were still there, just pushed way down deep in my subconscious. Keeping those feelings there was like trying to hold a beachball under the water. There was constant pressure for them to come to the surface. So when some event hit upon an area that was wounded, the related pain would surface. Being unable to handle the pain, I would seek for some method to numb it. Some use alcohol or drugs. I used cruising for homosexual partners.
When I got into a cruising experience, my sub-conscious self took over and began seeking for validation and affection. As time went by, it became more and more bold in its efforts to secure it. Once satisfied, it would retract back into the subconscious part of my mind, leaving the conscious part of me to answer for its behavior.
By establishing contact with this subconscious, inner child, I was able to find out each day how my inner child was feeling and what his needs were. Then I could consciously find ways to either help my inner child understand and deal with his inappropriate feelings or find ways to meet his needs in a healthy way. In a sense I became parent to myself. I was amazed at how resourceful my adult self could be when it was asked to parent my inner child. I was also amazed at how much my inner child could tell me about things that were repressed. Over the months I was able to raise those unconscious feelings and fears to a conscious level where I could deal with them and get past them.
Finding a Support System and the 12 Steps
A few months after I began therapy, I found a Christian support group for men’s sexuality issues. At first I was apprehensive about going. But I gathered up all of my courage and decided to attend. I thought that these men would not understand my problems because they were different from mine, but from the first meeting, I felt like I had found others who understood where I was and how I felt. For the first time in my life I was not alone. I found these meetings to be so helpful, that I have not missed a meeting, when I was in town, for over five years. Some men do deal with different issues, yet I have found that we all suffer from low self esteem and that nearly everyone in the group has experienced some kind of issue related to their father. What an eye opener since I am a father too!
The group is based loosely on the 12 Steps developed by AA and modified slightly for those with sexual addictions. What is amazing to me is that even after I entered into therapy, I did not recognize the fact that I suffered from a sexual addiction. Looking back, I am astonished that I was so blind, that I was in such a state of denial. I couldn’t deal with my problems earlier in my life because I was in denial. I didn’t know at the conscious level that I had a problem to deal with. I was keeping it repressed too deeply to deal with it.
Learning to Forgive
Eventually I began working the 12 Steps with the help of a sponsor and little by little I chipped away at the years of repressed feelings. During this process I began feeling a lot of anger, which I had previously repressed but which was always there, though disguised. Some of that anger was expressed towards my church leaders and some towards my wife. But as I continued to work the steps, I was able to work through those feelings.
First I learned to forgive those who began this cycle of pain in my life, my father, mother, step fathers and others who abused me. It was difficult, but I found ways to do so. My father has passed away, so I had to write him a letter to express my feelings. As I continued my work in this area, my anger subsided and I began to feel better about myself. But I found it easier to forgive those who injured me in the past, unintentionally, than to forgive those who had injured or let me down in the present.
Finally I realized that my expectations of some men in my life, even men who had been supportive of my healing, had been totally unrealistic. In particular, I had wanted my bishop to become that special man in my life who would make me better. He couldn’t be that man for me any more than someone I met while cruising could make me whole.
Healing with Men
About this time I felt impressed to share with an acquaintance the struggles I was having. I had come to trust him over the past year and I felt that he genuinely cared about me. We met and I told him my story. He accepted all he heard with understanding and compassion and he agreed to meet with me, weekly if necessary to help me work through some of the issues. We met together often and his love and interest in me helped me to be able to see myself in a different light.
Soon I found Evergreen, a support group of men who struggled with unwanted homosexual feelings but wanted to live their lives in harmony with the gospel of Christ. If I had found any sense of belonging in my other support group, it was multiplied many times in this group. The stories of our backgrounds were remarkably similar, as were our experiences with church leaders. It felt good to know that there are other Christian men who struggle with the same issue and that I was not alone.
After working on my recovery for about five years, I could see how each resource I called on played a role in helping me to become the man I am today. Yet, I found that though I had experienced much healing and growth in my life, I retained some things that sabotaged my progress.
Foremost among those was a fear of men. Having suffered abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse from a host of men in my life, particularly my early life, I became detached from men. I feared them. They held a power over me which they exercised in abusive ways.
At first I hated them and subconsciously elected to never be like them. Then, as I reached adolescence, I found myself somehow attracted to the very creatures I despised. Yet that attraction was combined with fear. The combination of attraction and fear made it very difficult for me to trust any man, at least for very long. I might be exhilarated by the fact that a man was showing me kindness, even love, but then before long I would begin to doubt the sincerity of that love and would begin to withdraw from the friendship for fear that if I truly trusted this man, he would abandon me or even abuse me. This fear made it difficult to enlist men in my recovery.
It was during this time that the Spirit impressed upon my spirit the need to attend an experiential men’s weekend that my friend Rich Wyler had recommended to me nearly a year earlier. I was not ready at that time to accept the opportunity, but at this time in my life I was nearly compelled to go.
— straight men! —
who loved me unconditionally.
Words cannot express the depth of the experience I felt. I found a community of men — straight men! — who loved me unconditionally, who looked into my eyes when I arrived and immediately saw the great sadness there. This sadness had been there for many years yet the men in my life never seemed to have seen it. But these men saw it, identified it, and called it what it was.
As they probed my feelings and the life experiences that led to them, they identified qualities to be admired and they pronounced them before the entire group. The group acknowledged and validated them with reverence and even awe. Never before had men acknowledge the good within me like these men did. It was empowering.
They helped me face my shadow, the baggage I have been carrying around all of my life. They led me into experiences that allowed me to touch that shadow and to defeat it. I faced my shadow, my demon, and walked away a new man, no longer enslaved by the chains of fear.
The Healing Path, One Step at a Time
Now, more than five years into the beginning of my healing journey, I realize that I didn’t always know what was best for me and that I couldn’t expect everything to be handed to me at once. Yet I could see the Lord’s hand at work in my life over the past several years. In particular I felt that the following events were evidence that the Lord had continued to strive with me:
Bringing me new friendships that offered healing, support, love and mentoring.
Meeting another homosexual struggler from my church who helped me get past my denial.
Being led to a therapist who taught me inner child therapy and about dysfunctional families.
Being led to a support group for men dealing with self-destructive sexual behavior.
Being led to the Evergreen support group.
Being led to attend an experiential weekend program for men’s inner healing and personal growth.
The Lord teaching me to have faith in his step-by-step, line-upon-line, healing journey to peace.
I cannot express in words the changes that have taken place in my life over the past several years. And it has taken years. None of this has come overnight. Yet now, having let go of all of my resentments and anger, I find a great peace within myself. I find myself filled with love for all men. I spend a lot of time trying to do that little something that will touch another person’s life, and I walk daily with the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Does that mean that I don’t look at other men any more? No, I still find myself looking at other men. Sometimes I even wish I could look like they do. But I don’t lust after them, or think sexual thoughts. I don’t indulge in masturbation and I don’t even desire to.
Will it last? I sincerely hope so. I love walking in the Spirit every day. I don’t know how long the journey will take, but it doesn’t matter. There is joy in the journey itself.