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Mourning Sobriety

As yet another celebrity succumbs to self-inflicted death, related in some form to drug and alcohol abuse, we bring you an article written in memoriam of P. S. Hoffman, who died of a confirmed drug overdose earlier this year.

obormottel Tuesday, 12 August 2014

This is a little something I wrote upon hearing the sad news of the famous actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman's passing, due to an overdose of drugs (after being clean for 23 years). The news touched me deeply and this is my reflection...

While many mourn Philip S. Hoffman's friendship and influence, and many more grieve over the loss of his talent and entertainment value, I am heartbroken over something entirely different. As an addict, I mourn Hoffman's twenty three years of sobriety. And I believe, being a particular type of addict, I bring to this issue a one-of-a-kind perspective.

You see, if I were a heroin addict, this event could wake me up to the fact that my addiction can, and in all likelihood, will kill me. If I were a pill-popper or a meth-head, Hoffman's death might alert me to the possibility of overdose or a fatal drug counteraction. And if I were an alcoholic, and certainly an alcoholic in recovery, this tragedy could remind me how frail my condition really is, and that even after 23 years clean and sober, once I pick up again, I'd immediately regress to the destructive levels of excessive consumption that brought me into recovery so many years before.

But I am neither of those.

I am addicted to sexually-compulsive behavior and internet pornography. In the vernacular, I'm a sex addict, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing, because with very few and quite rare exceptions, my addiction doesn't pose a threat of overdosing or of immediate death. And it's a curse for those same reasons. I think I should tell you why that is.

Sex addiction is viewed by many as an indulgence. "Just stop," we are told. "If you didn't want to do it, you wouldn't". At the same time, it's a victimless crime - porn junkies like myself hurt no one... or so we like to tell ourselves.

Of course, upon reflection, we assent that we hurt ourselves. Our shame and guilt lock us into depression and self-loathing, we suffer financial losses, and risk losing our jobs and marriages as a result of our acting out.

Given a little more thought, we accept the fact that there are people in whose continual abuse we participate and whose perpetual suffering we exacerbate. We abet the humiliation and degradation of porn actresses and other women, whose participation in pornographic home videos had become the common property of the internet, and subsequently, of the secret hard drive on our computers.

And after some hard fact-facing, we concede that our loved ones are victimized by our addiction, too.

For starters, most would admit that absentee parenting hurts our children. And absentee parents we are, since even when we do show up at home after hours of being a slave to computer imagery or sex chat, we are so groggy and angry that it becomes impossible to relate to the kids' day and their issues, which they're desperate to share with us.

We also begin to see that a husband, who lusts after everything that moves except his loving and faithful wife, kills the relationship in no uncertain terms. To add, when the truth of our virtual or actual infidelity finally does come out, our wives experience symptoms of an emotional break-down and psychological trauma similar to those women who had been raped.

This, then, is my take away from Mr. Hoffman's loss of sobriety, and eventual loss of life. As a sex addict, I'm in little danger of dying if I relapse. My danger lies in falling back into a cycle of victimizing myself, the women I act out with, and my family. The risk I take when I succumb to my addiction and plunge down into the abyss of internet porn is in not knowing when I'd come back up.

Will I fall just this once and be back in the saddle tomorrow, or will I go on a month-long binge? Will I lose all remnants of my self-esteem and give up on my recovery? Will I resurface in five years? Ten? Will I watch from afar as my children grow up, my wife's affection withers and dies, and my hopes and aspirations are tossed into the waste basket along with crumpled tissues? I know I have twenty years of acting out in me. I've done it before. The question is, will I have twenty years of sobriety if I blow it this time? Will I get another chance to recover, do a character overhaul, and restart my relationships, or will the sex addiction demon take hold of me and not let go until it's too late?

The program of recovery that I'm working offers hope. It offers me an opportunity to reset to factory defaults. But if I keep pushing the recovery off to another day (and by G-d, I'd been pushing it off for another day for twenty-plus years), will there come a day when I look back and wonder where my life had gone? On that day, when I suddenly realize that there are no more days left, will I wish I had gotten sober the day before? I loathe and dread that a day may come when I wake up to the fact that everyone whom I had loved and who had loved me are gone forever, with no hope of return.

The heroin addicts are lucky, then. They just die once. I, on the other hand, will have to live with myself for the rest of my life, dying each day a spiritual death. This, then, is the curse of my addiction. It keeps on, and the death it promises is not sudden, but slow and excruciatingly, unbearably painful. I know this pain. I had been dying like this before.

Only by the Grace of G-d I don't have to die like this today.