Episode 31: The Lifting of Shame

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Going into sexual desire brings up shame for many people. There is the shame of feeling like you have a secret – perhaps from your past -- or that your desire is wrong, or that there may be something wrong with you because you feel this way. Hear how the process of diving into their shame lifted the burden of it for two people. First, a sex addict who could not control his actions, no matter how he tried. Plus, a poem about a ritualistic experience that had its author re-live the terror, loneliness and shame of an operation that removed one-eighth of her cervix.

Also, go to www/onetaste.us/allparts and take advantage of a free special offer to hear OneTaste’s founder Nicole Daedone speak about her exploration of the divine. Daedone is an original thinker and an inspirational speaker, definitely worth listening to.

Transcript

Announcer: This program is intended for mature audiences only.

Guest: My name is Peter and I am a sex addict.  As of the 21st, I have 33 months of abstinence from my habit that includes paying for sexual acts, lying to create sexual encounters, and having sex with someone that I have know for less than 24 hours.

J : That’s a friend of mine, actually, that is a friend of mine but those aren’t his words.  He is reading for another friend, who is a recovering sex addict.  My friend, not the reader but the recovering sex addict, told me that one of the hardest things about his habit was the shame.  It would take emptying his bank account, going into debt, criss-crossing the county and cycling through the same destructive pattern in relationships before he could face that shame and ask for help.  That’s the way it usually goes with shame, it stays with you like a bird squawking loudly in a closet before you open the door and let it out.

J : From One Taste Urban Retreat Center we bring you a taste of sex reality audio.  A podcast featuring personal stories and perspectives from people engaged in the conscious exploration of connection, sensuality and relationship.

This week’s topic: The Lifting of Shame

Part 1, the Confessions of an Addict

And Part 2, a poem about the lifting of shame through the ritual of needle piercing

I’m J , stay tuned…

Part 1, the Confessions of an Addict:

Twelve step programs around the country have helped millions of addicts of all sorts, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.  The idea is that if you can follow twelve guiding steps for recovery you can unravel harmful patterns and learn to live life with a new code of behaviors.

The first step in the twelve step program goes like this: We admitted that we were powerless and that our lives became unmanageable.  The following is a story of unmanageability and the admission of shame that was able to bring its author into recovery.

Shawn: My name is Peter and I am a sex addict.  I grew up in a conservative, middle class suburb in the South, my parents who had adopted me as an infant had traditional 1950’s style role-based marriage.  My mother took responsibility for the emotional development of the children and my father played the role of provider and when necessary that of disciplinarian.  My father was the leader of the family and he was my primary role model.  His personality was shaped by education and life in the military: discipline, intensity, will power, grandiosity, egoism and a “black and white” view.  These were the values that dominated his outlook on life.  Expressing nurturing and loving emotions never came naturally to my father.  Alcohol was a fixture in my parent’s lifestyle, each day they would start drinking scotch, bourbon or martinis at 6:30pm and continue through the night.  I was always afraid of my father’s temper and I became very adept at assessing his mood as he entered the house after work.  I never questioned my parent’s alcohol use; the word addiction was reserved for my mother’s smoking habit.  She tried repeatedly to quit but couldn’t.  In retrospect, it was clear that she felt shame about it.

For the first eleven years of my life, we attended the local Catholic Church.  Near as I can tell, I developed the following strong beliefs.  One, church is something that you should do to be a good person.  Two, humans have to confess for being imperfect but need to ask God for forgiveness. And three, sex for pleasure is sinful.

I discovered masturbation when I was thirteen and started doing it twice daily.  Each day I would go to the basement to watch TV and masturbate.  Secrecy and shame were always part of the experience.  At sixteen I had intercourse for the first time, my girlfriend started to take the pill and sex became the defining activity in our relationship.  I started to feel powerless when it came to sex.

One night, my girlfriend got into a car accident and she sustained some minor but painful injuries.  Her shoulder was in a sling and she came home with crutches.  She was emotional vulnerable and that night, although it was completely inappropriate, I tried to have sex with her because I needed to have it. 

During college I majored in accounting because I knew my parents would approve.  During my last semester I landed a job with an accounting firm in San Francisco.  I drove cross-country with my best friend.  During the trip we stopped in Las Vegas for 24 hours, we were both so fascinated by the idea that you could legally hire an escort.  I quickly found some phone numbers and called one.  When she arrived my friend got nervous, I asked him to leave the room and I had sex with her.

When he came back I lied by telling him that nothing had happened.  I rationalized what I had done, telling myself that I was a real, virile man and by applauding myself for the depth of my partying. 

I settled into SF and my new job and realized quickly that I didn’t like the work.  I became resentful to my parents and I also began to feel shame because deep down I believed that I was lazy and that was why I didn’t like the job.  I started to eat and drink a lot more.  My growing dissatisfaction fueled my sex addition.  As ever, I used masturbation to numb my feelings.  I would also go to bars looking for drunken women with who I could have sex.

During my third year on the job I went on a business trip to Bulgaria.  On my second night, I discovered that escort worked in the hotel night club.  I was fascinated and I hired one for the next two nights.  During the same trip I also went over to Prague and found my way to a brothel.  I spent all my money and had to take a cash advance on my credit card for the remainder of the trip.  This trip had the effect of normalizing prostitutes with me.

Later that same year in San Francisco, I moved into an apartment with a platonic girlfriend.  After 9 months I realized I had romantic feelings towards her.  I eventually mustered up the courage to share my feelings only to find out that she wasn’t interested.  I took her rejection as evidence that she was better than me.  I fundamentally believed that I was a bad person and that no one would love me if they really knew me.  I immediately moved out of my apartment and into my own studio.  Depression, loneliness and living alone escalated my sex addiction.  Within a month of moving in, I had an escort come to my apartment.  Breaking another one of my self prescribed boundaries…escorts were no longer limited to business trips, it was now okay to use them in SF.  During this period I also began to pick up street prostitutes.  The danger of being arrested simply contributed to the adrenaline rush.  After each time I vowed to stop.  Invariably, I would find myself cruising the streets bargaining with myself, “If I see an escort, it was meant to be tonight.”  My addiction started to require a greater and greater eroticism; several times I even picked up transvestites to just see what it was like, one night I even called a male phone line.

When outside of my secret sexual world, I engaged myself in sex-based relationships.  The cycle of those relationships was always the same.  One, I choose the dating partner based almost solely on their body parts.  Two, I would quickly drift into sexual fantasy, obsession about them.  Three, I would press to have sex as soon as she would agree to it.  Four, when we had had sex my fantasy bubble was ruined by reality.  Five, as we would have more and more sex she would reveal her feelings to me.  Six, I would then start to feel trapped in the relationship.  Seven, my sexual desire would turn into sexual aversion.  Eight, I would start to cultivate reasons to get out of the relationship.  Nine, I would end the relationship, in part, because they were not, “the one.”

With the completion of each cycle, my self belief that I was “fucked up” would deepen.  I didn’t understand why it was so hard for me to stay in a relationship.  I resented a society that had me feeling so different, broken and lost. 

Depressed and unhappy, I took a job in Miami.  I felt that a new beginning would solve all my problems, but before I left San Francisco I vowed to stop using escorts.  In my new role, I occasionally traveled to Latin America. During my first trip to Brazil I had long dinner and a lot of alcohol.  When I got back to the hotel I lied to my co-workers, telling them that I was tired.  I snuck out of the hotel and asked the cab driver if he knew of any escort clubs.  An hour later, I returned to the hotel with an escort.

The next night I set-up again but didn’t have quite enough cash.  I promised the escort I would pay her the next day when I could take another cash advance from the hotel.  As collateral I gave her my driver’s license.  I never called back

That trip set a trend for all my Latin American trips.  With that job I spent about 40 days traveling in Latin America and I would guess that on about half those nights I would have escorts.  On two occasions I would pay for two girls at the same time because one was not enough.  To mitigate my shame I started to romanticize and glamorize my behavior.  I started to work at home and see escorts during working hours.  Many times just because I was bored.  I was neither satisfied with my job and nor did I feel productive or appreciated.  My favorite ritual involved calling an escort line that specialized in Latin American women.  The madam started to know me and she would send new girls my way.  I loved not know what they would look like until I opened the door.  The anticipation was intoxicating.  For about a month I dated an escort form Brazil who couldn’t speak any English.  Eventually I got bored and ended the relationship.

J : You’ve been listening to a Taste of Sex.  We are going to take a short break, but first I’m going to say that if you missed our offer last week to hear an excerpt from One Taste founder Nicole Daedone about exploring all parts of yourself, you are in luck, because we are offering it again.  Go to onetaste.us/allparts again that is onetaste.us/allparts.  It is free and if you haven’t heard her, Nicole is an amazing speaker, truly inspirational, insightful, beautiful…full of wisdom.  Definitely worth checking out, if you can tell I am a big fan.  Again, that is onetaste.us/allparts.

J : Welcome back to A Taste of Sex, I am J .

Shawn: My social life withered.  I had some friendships but I made sure no one knew about my dark secrets.  To be honest I didn’t really care about other people.  I would go out with friends but invariably would find an excuse to leave early.

I lost control of my finances.  I stopped keeping a budget because the disappointment of breaking it was too much to bear.  This was particularly shameful because I was a certified public accountant. 

My money system was based on hope.  I hoped that I did not bounced checks; I hoped that the ATM would give me money.  Getting cash became a key part of my sexual addiction ritual. I would go to the ATM machine, enter my code, and then look away from the screen for fear of seeing “insufficient funds.” The “click, click, click” sound of the ATM preparing to dispense money would trigger a complete body high.  I would tell myself that this was happening because it was meant to be.  I would walk away from the ATM machine high as a kite.  I accumulated 50,000 dollars in debt and used 15,000 dollars of my retirement savings to try paying off credit cards.

Depressed and lonely, I moved back to San Francisco and to live with other people, in part because it would prevent me from bringing escorts home.  Once back in San Francisco, for the first time in my life I really liked my work and felt that it suited my talents.  Still, I drifted back to escorts.  On one business trip to New York, I met up with an old friend with the goal of having sex with her.  She invited me out with a group but paid me no attention.  Frustrated, angry and rejected I went back to the hotel and started calling escorts.  Fourteen hundred dollars, two cash advances and three escorts later I realized that I had lost control.  I felt scared.  I went to see a behavioral therapist and introduced my problem by only saying that I felt depressed and emotionless.  I mentioned my history of escorts but I lied, characterizing it as a behavior of the past.  After seeing her for a while, I started to feel better.  For the first time I was working at labeling and sharing my true feeling with another person.  I started to date someone from yoga class.  I was really enjoying having someone in my life but after three months my interest in sex began to wane.  She got frustrated.

I told her that it was my problem and that it had nothing to do with her.  I had always been insecure about my ability to love…I wondered if there wasn’t something wrong with her for loving me so much.  At the beginning of the relationship I once again vowed to no longer use escorts, but the pressure building, I needed a release from the stress.  I turned to an escort. 

My girlfriend started to accuse me of cheating on her.  Of course, I denied it.  I hit bottom when my girlfriend broke into my e-mail and found the damning evidence.  She was devastated.  I felt like the worst person in the world and that I could never make up for all the bad things that I had done.  That week, I finally told my therapist everything.  She immediately recommended that I attend a twelve step meeting.  I started going to meetings right away and I got a sponsor, and since that first introduction I have never stopped going to meetings.  The twelve steps in my recovery have profoundly improved my life, simply put, it has given me the opportunity to be happy.  It has given me the emotional education that I sorely needed. I have learned was self-care means and how it is fundamental to my sobriety.  I have learned that shame is a toxic emotion that is never appropriate and I have learned that I am inheritably loveable. 

I still struggle, but now I have the tools to deal with my life.  I have learned to accept my recovery and my life as a work in progress. 

J : Thanks to Shawn for the reading and to Peter, whose real name is not Peter, for being willing to share his story.

The following is a poem by Yea, first read at open mic that we hold bi-monthly here at One Taste San Francisco.  Yea wrote the poem after taking a BDSM workshop with Cleo Dubois who is a master at pushing people to their limits and in that, helping them to release repressed feeling or emotions.  Here is Yea:

Yea: We have been taught not to cry, we feel that the only way to survive is to close off our feelings and emotions so that we cannot be hurt again.
If our pain is deep, we might even try to hide it from ourselves.
This can make us frozen, rigid, because deep down we know that one small break in the ice will free the hurt to start circulating through us again.
The tears and only the tears have the ability the power to melt the ice.
Crying helps us to let go of pain.  -Ocea Tarot Cards.

The ritual begins, I watch as each of my classmates bravely receives two needles in their chest.  As the needles go in and out, I can feel a warm and uncomfortable buzz wash over my body and I want to look away.

Their courage inspires me to move forward…my turn comes.

I sit beside Cleo, she asks me where I want the needles and I point to two spots above my breasts.  “Set two intentions,” she says, “in with love and out with isolation.”

These words flow into my mind. My heart opens before the first needle reaches my chest.  She pierces the thick layer of skin, the needle goes in and the memory of being alone on an examination table burns hot and turns into streams of tears rolling down my face.

“In with love, out with isolation.”

Three years ago I received the phone call at work.  We scheduled an appointment, “Do I want someone there for support?”  My throat tightened and tears welled up, I went over the names of friends and family in my mind.  Only one friend knew of my cervical dysplasia and in normal growth, one stage away from cancer.  I hadn’t even told my mom, “No” I replied.  I can do this on my own; it is not that big of a deal.  Colposcopy is the direct examination of your genital area, including the cervix, vagina and vaginal opening using a specially lighted microscope called a colposcope.  The patient lies down on the table, knees bent, feet in stirrups…a speculum inserts.  A salt water solution cleans the cervix, acidic acid solution applied with cotton ball reviews abnormal cells.  Tissues removed.  Expect cramping, bleeding and vaginal discharge.  Do not insert anything into your vagina for at least one week.  -Mayo.com

“In with love, out with isolation.”

I had a session with my are kea mentor before the appointment.  She said the dysplasia had occurred because I ignored my sexual desires.  The cervix, the second shakra, is the area that stores all the sexual energy.  My body was calling out for help, calling out for me to put my attention on my sex. 

I walked into the doctor’s office feeling light, clear and grounded.  I felt ready to do this…to have this thing leave my body.  I got on the table and relaxed.  The doctor went to work, cold speculum, warm heat from the light warmed my pussy…instruments clanged below.  I took a deep breath in…counting to myself, feeling the pulling and tugging at my core, removing 1/8 of my cervix of the yes and no, of the guilt and shame, of the isolation and desires that I had suppressed.  Of my mother’s guilt, of the shame that put on women around their sex that haves it to be voiceless and disconnected.

“In with love, out with isolation.”

Ken stands in front of me, his eyes gaze softly into mine, his left hand pulls the string hooked to two needles embedded in my chest.  Each tug breaks a line down the ice, frozen around my heart, tears flow burning like hot liquid on my cheeks and naked chest.  I am on the table again, but this time, not by myself.

Cleo’s soft, motherly voice sweeps in, “let it purify, let it burn out.”  The ice splits and a scream from deep inside my cervix roars out, splattering the room with its orange and green light.  Isolation pours out of my body, out from my heart, out from my cervix.  The screams carry an ancient thorn lodged in my heart from times before this physical form of my body was born.  Carried and passed over from one generation to the next.  Sage burns above my head, infusing me with its sweet scent.  Shamanic drumming envelops the room, matching the volume of my screams, dancers chanting shaking rattles around me, over me, guiding me back from this journey.  My legs shaking, hands cold, heart purifying, chest burning, tears flooding…

The screams subside…I open my eyes.  A friend stands before me.  Holding me with his presence, his gaze…his heart.  I am not alone.  Love pours into me from him, from the others, from the music, from me into me.  I look at Ken, we smile.

“In with love, out with isolation.”

J : Thank you for listening to “A Taste of Sex.”  Don’t forget to check out One Taste founder Nicole Daedone by going to onetaste.us/allparts.  You’ll hear an excerpt of a speech that she gave in April about her journey of seeking the divine.  I said it before and I’ll say it again, Nicole is amazing and worth checking out.  If you want to check out One Taste you can find us at onetaste.us.  For transcripts of this show, you’ll want to go to personallifemedia.com.  And finally, if you’d like to write me, it’s [email protected] 

Thanks for listening.