With alcohol, I can see what went wrong. My puritanical upbringing put big normative restrictions on alcohol. It made it a forbidden fruit. Whenever I did have access to it, in high school or college, I overdid it. It took me at about a decade to put alcohol into proper perspective, to learn how to enjoy it without bringing about unenjoyable effects such as hangovers and making a fool of myself. I mention that because it parallels one of several problems I had with sex and had some vague similarities to my struggles with tobacco. One of the several problems with my approach to sex was this view of it as a forbidden fruit. It was forbidden and elusive. I therefore used little or no self-control whenever sex was available. I did not develop an internal desire to control my sexual behavior. I relied on what I believed were plentiful external checks on my sexual behavior.
Back then I had a few porn magazines hidden from TL. I used to masturbate to porn occasionally, more often than I wanted. I don’t know how frequently I did that. Over the years there were some periods when it may have been daily. There were other periods when it was less frequent. I was ashamed of it. It was the same kind of lack of self control that sometimes caused me trouble with food, tobacco, or obsessively pushing back my cuticles. Gradually, I learned to find porn on the Internet. There were periods of time when I stopped doing that. But, those successes in quitting never lasted. Sooner or later I went back to searching the Internet for porn, sometimes as often as every night when TL was asleep or every time I was alone in the house. I was quite disappointed in myself for doing that. I struggled to stop.
Just so you know, I stopped porn and masturbation just before D-day. I have not done either, at all, for at least 34 months now.
Some time, maybe around our second year of marriage, I discovered Internet chat rooms. By this time, TL and I had moved many miles away from friends and family for me to start graduate school. I treated these chat rooms as a porn supplement or porn substitute. I engaged in cyber sex. In four cases, I actually met up with people I had met in the chat rooms. I’ll use abbreviations to elaborate. One woman, who I’ll refer to as CR1, met me in person twice. The first time she stayed in a hotel room near our apartment. While TL was at work and while I was supposed to be home studying for my degree, I went over to meet CR1. She was really unappealing. I was not able to perform. Weeks later we covertly met again. She came over to our apartment. She performed oral sex on me.
I told myself very sick, dishonest, and stupid things to justify my cheating. I told myself I deserved to cheat because TL was not giving me enough sex. I told myself I deserved to cheat because God had left me with limited sexual experience and resulting lack of self-esteem. I told myself what TL did not know would not hurt her. These, of course, were all wrong. Even if TL did not give me enough sex, I should have dealt with it through honest discussion with her and perhaps with help from a counselor. But, in fact, she did give me plenty of sex, by most standards.
The problem, in that regard, was that no amount of sex would have been enough in my mind. I was using sex in unhealthy ways. First, whether through sex or masturbation, I was behaving compulsively with regard to seeking orgasms. Second, I was also using sex as a proxy for self-esteem. The hole in my self-esteem was bottomless. Sex would never fill it. I think the only way I could have really addressed my self-esteem, perhaps with help from a counselor, would have been to completely reinvent my view of myself and the entire world around me. In fact, that is exactly what I’ve been working to do as part of my post-D-day recovery and prevention.