The formal office setting could have been a bit intimidating, at least a little, if had come to be assessed by the young medical professional, and if he had not been so warm and welcoming. It isn’t every day I sit in the office of professionals, interviewing them and hearing stories of childhood abuse, sexual addictions and struggle.
It’s happened before, with a lawyer, my age, who simply needed to share his journey, and weep, and several other medical professionals, but still, it is rare. Whether that is because they have done so well, that pulling a painful story to the forefront is too overwhelming, or the fear of what clients, patients or customers might think, if they were to discover it.
Whatever the reason, it’s not because these hurts and traumas don’t exist there…. it’s just rare that I am the one sitting across from them. When I do, they simply become human beings, without title or position, who need someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to care. Or, in this case, to hear their story, and share it with the public. I’ve been criticized, mostly by one or two people, for sharing these painful stories publicly, as if I am wrecking people’s lives by doing so. On the contrary, I share stories because those who tell me theirs, and ask me to write about them, or give me permission to, want to have a voice, without exposing their identity.
I am careful what stories I choose. There are many I have heard that you will never see in black and white, unless the individuals choose to tell them themselves. They are powerful stories, but the telling of some horrific truths I simply cannot enter into, at least not at this time in my life. I can hear, and have compassion, but retelling makes my mind stop, and the words refuse to come. But the one thing I have hoped for, is to share the story of a gentleman, or two, who suffered sexual abuse and overcame….
Some months ago, in blog post, I asked if any men would be willing to share their stories, and eventually this gentleman contacted me. He would be willing to share his story and ‘tell all’, he said, as long as I don’t disclose his real name. I could come to his office and even record the interview.
After driving almost two hours, I was greeted by a short and slightly stocky, balding gentleman, with friendly eyes, a big voice, and a ready smile. To break the ice, we chatted, casually for a few moments, about his work and how successful he has become, and to establish boundaries in the discussion. Anything was fair game, he said.
To lead into the interview, I asked if he has ever shared his story with anyone before, in its entirety, and he had not. And so I began with early childhood memories…
Raised in a Christian home, his parents gave him the best that they could, both physically and spiritually. They were firm, yet loving, in parenting. They were involved in church, but not to the neglect of their children. They had a good and safe home, but they also had their work cut out for them. Jeremy was a high-energy, rambunctious boy…
It all began when Jeremy was babysat, as a very young boy, by ‘nice’ young man next door, in his mid to upper teens, and the babysitter helped him shower before bed. The babysitter joked with him about their bodies, and led into touching each other, covering it with laughter, to make it seem innocent. Beyond that, he said, he had no memories of anything happening.
While there seemed to be no obvious consequences that Jeremy would have recognized, it clearly set life patterns. Now a psychologist, Jeremy says it was studying that helped him understand how this impacted his life.
By age eight a friend introduced Jeremy to pornography, opening a door to a whole new set of problems and confusions. That introduction led to an addiction that would take many years to break.
Initially it amounted mostly to excessive time spent in the Sears catalogue, because there was no other easy access to porn. This lasted until his parents found a ‘home made’ porn book, of pictures glued into a lined subject book, and questioned him. He blamed it on his sister, who was only a year younger than he, but after a through investigation, they didn’t buy the story.
With time Jeremy introduced a boy in the neighbourhood, who was a year or two younger, to porn, and by age eleven he started mowing lawns to bring in money, and used it to buy candy and pornography. Being too embarrassed to purchase the magazines himself, he conned his friend into going into the store, in exchange for candy, to buy topless magazines
Jeremy was diagnosed ADHD at a young age–and it affected him to such an extreme that he was kicked out of preschool before the end of the first week–and was forbidden candy at home, as was his younger sister. His buddy’s home was also highly controlled, with a strong health focus, and as a result he too, almost never got candy. By partnering together, they managed to keep their addictions hidden–both the porn and the candy–while feeding those addictions constantly.
When the computer arrived in their home, unsupervised, providing easy access, Jeremy said the problem escalated to unimaginable levels.
At one point Jeremy’s mom sat down, sensing something was wrong, and questioned him, but he denied everything, and she never asked again.
Driven by guilt, the addiction was a compelling force in Jeremy’s life for many years. Through high school, through his early twenties, and then into marriage, he surrendered, mostly willingly, to the addiction. There were short periods of time when he fought hard, and even gave up the addictions. But it never lasted longer than 2 or 3 weeks, before it would overtake him again, leaving him hopeless, overwhelmed and defeated. Not to mention that he didn’t like who he became when not feeding the addictions.
While this struggle played out, going back to those earlier years, other drama and trauma also played out in Jeremy’s life. His sister developed extreme mental illness, leading to physical attacks and even death threats, starting when she was only thirteen. On several occasions she made actual physical attacks on Jeremy’s life, attacking him with sharp objects or other weapons. He was, at that time, still small for his age in every way, and his younger sister, who was taller, had the upper hand. At night his bedroom had to be locked, to keep her out and him safe. And even that didn’t prevent her from trying.
This struggle only served to deepen the addiction, as Jeremy searched for an escape from reality.
When Jeremy started dating, in his late twenties, there was a sudden and unexpected accountability that he hadn’t prepared for. It began when she asked if he was into pornography. In that moment he decided to be honest, and immediately told her the truth.
Through the rise and fall of their courtship, Jeremy said he pushed his girlfriend far beyond her own boundaries, sexually, but managed to avoid having intercourse before marriage. Still, it added to struggles after marriage. She felt betrayed, almost used, and he was confused by her frigidity after marriage.
The marriage vows didn’t take care of the addictions. Jeremy continued to feed on pornography, going through the cycle of wanting to quit, feeling defeated, and drowning in guilt. And then trying again.
In that cycle of trying to overcome, Jeremy found that all he thought about was the very things he wanted to remove from his life. The end result was that the ‘draw’ to the addiction only grew stronger, leaving him yet more powerless.
Jeremy’s wife gave birth to their first child–a son–still the addictions continued, and their relationship deteriorated. As things grew increasingly worse in their marriage , after the birth of twin daughters, Jeremy’s wife insisted he get help. She was ready to give up on the marriage, struggling constantly with the ‘competition’ of pornography, and feeling like she wasn’t enough.
When trying to have sex with him, she said, she constantly pictured what scantily clad, or naked, woman he had last lusted after. The pornography had become a consuming force in their marriage, threatening to take from Jeremy the woman he loved.
Still afraid to expose his struggle, Jeremy reluctantly joined a Celebrate Recovery group, meeting with men who challenged and inspired one another to rise above, to forgive when they failed, to keep reaching for holiness.
As a result of that group, three men decided to meet weekly, apart from the group, and offer each other accountability. At first it worked like a weekly ‘confessional’, where all that really took place was taking turns admitting to failure. When this proved ineffective, they set up a method of ‘consequences’ in which, whoever failed had to pay the other two men a set amount. This worked effectively, he said, by training the mind on consequences.
“I’ve been ‘clean’ for over half a year now,” he said with bold confidence. He shared how he learned to focus on getting up after failing, rather than beating himself up for failing, and the difference that has made. He acknowledged how much his wife has suffered because of his sin, his choices, and how he wants to extend grace to her, as she struggles through that, and through her feelings for him–or the lack of them.
Jeremy is fighting for his wife’s heart, and for their family unit, without imposing on her the burden of his sin. He didn’t say she has to forgive and forget, and get on with life. He understands the consequences of his wrong choices, and time and patience, as God works, is the answer.
When his son gets a little older, he told me, he will have awkward talks with him about pornography and all that ‘stuff’. He remembers those awkward moments with his parents–even how his dad once admitted to having struggled–and plans to have even more talks… talks that are even more awkward. He will teach his children to protect themselves. Teach them about identity, value and purpose.
Jeremy is breaking a generational chain, by breaking the silence. He has moved from a journey of abuse and addiction, to a journey of freedom and hope through Jesus, through accountability, through honesty.
© Trudy Metzger
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