Mikhail & Haley

Surviving Sex Addiction & Staying Together

Her story

Growing up, covert incest was large part of my childhood. Men were not always safe. My father was not the most protective parent. Because of all that, sexuality was very complicated for me as a child and in some ways still is. Part of the reason I came to therapy to learn how to move beyond the pain of not having a childhood and finding myself through my sexuality. The whole process has been very healing.

Falling in love is not an easy thing for me. It takes time for me to find someone that I feel is compelling enough to invest in. I was certainly in love with Mikhail when he told me he was a sex addict. The information was devastating beyond words. I felt betrayed somehow in a way I can’t fully describe. It hurt so deeply. No matter how long I cried–the feeling didn’t go away. I just felt that God was playing a sick joke on me. Why is this happening to me? I felt I was at a crossroads in deciding what to do in the relationship. The hardest part was feeling the love for him despite the fear and trepidation. I think in the end what allowed me to do it was that deep down, I knew he is a good man, a good father, a good person.  I felt I had to go to a dark place to really test what our love was made of. It was very hard to do. My old wounds and pains around sexuality emerged.  This wasn’t all about him.

But I felt lost and scared and so incredibly sad.  I wondered how redemption would come for us. It eventually did. It took the form of talking and being with the pain. We talked for hours and hours and over many days. He was honest. I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know what this means in terms of our relationship and he was committed to helping me feel safe in the process. That meant something to me. I learned that we had incredible tensile strength as a couple. In the end, I think real, spiritual love is rare. That’s what we have.  If I had a choice to stay and try to understand how this disclosure would change us and maybe make us stronger as a couple—that’s what I wanted to do. So I did. I stayed. I am so grateful I did because our life–with all its complications–is so beautiful. My message would be this: If you love someone you are vulnerable to all that comes with that experience. Give in to that. If something happens that scares you or hurts you deeply—take your time to see if you can find your way back to the love. If it’s right—it’s worth it. For me, that has made all the difference. Life Design Centre has been a big part of my healing. It’s a place where I find sanctuary. It’s helped me grow in all the ways that I need.

I am fearless in the way I choose to love.

His story

My experience with serious, pervasive depression started in my teens. Looking back, the intensity of feelings and thoughts inside me and a longing to connect had been there since early childhood—probably in response to the traumatic break up of my family—but it took something to crack me open. The trigger was a single episode of impotence in my first true love relationship. The sense of failure in sexual life was more than I cope with. It was what I wanted the most. I believed my ability to connect sexuality and emotionally with women was my only real ability. It was where I put all my hopes and where I derived my self-worth.
Time revealed that the depression was both about sexuality, connection, and relationships and was also bigger than any one of these issues. It was about how I felt about myself. It was about my relationship with my family and how I tried to hide my strong feelings and passionate side. I swung violently from addiction, co-dependence, and an over reliance on sexuality to comfort myself and into periods of isolation, celibacy, and spiritual searching. Over time, the acting out intensified with pornography, strippers, and escorts. The depression lessened but never went away fully.

I survived that time because of the work I was doing in therapy and recovery. My willingness to search, and the support of my therapists and spiritual life, had allowed me to find humility and self-acceptance even though I was still in pain and felt so flawed. I resolved myself to find a partner with whom I could heal my heart and my sexual self. I knew I would have to disclose to that woman all that had happened and all that I had been through.

Several years later, when Haley and I met, I knew immediately that she would be the one I would tell. Our connection was so deep and so comfortable—it was unlike anything I had ever felt. She seemed to see me so clearly already. The idea of having to disclose my addiction and risk what we had was scary, but I knew our love could not grow unless I was honest and felt that I was accepted by her despite my history. I knew that I could not heal further unless the truth came out. 

But when Haley told me that these disclosures raised her greatest vulnerabilities, and that she was not sure she could continue in relationship with me, I cannot describe the sorrow I felt. It was soul crushing. It felt so cruel that my problems would push her deepest weakness. But I resolved—out of some sense of trust—to move forward with her and try to work it out. I also resolved to leave her alone if my history was too much for her. I could never stand hurting her. 

We talked it out and were real and honest with each other. It was truly scary. I apologized to her with my whole heart and did whatever I could do to reassure her and allow her to feel safe. Several things turned it around for me. The first was her disclosure that her reaction wasn’t entirely about me. Knowing about her childhood allowed me to understand why my history would be so threatening and hard. I felt great sorrow for what I had done, but I didn’t feel like a bad person. I also saw that I might be able to help her heal too—that healing might happen for both of us by being together. Another important insight was that I cared more about her and our relationship than I did about my own feelings. I wanted us to be whole, and for her to be safe and to feel safe, more than I wanted anything for myself alone. I discovered a level of commitment to a relationship and to a woman I had never felt before. 
I am incredibly grateful for our love and ability to communicate. Haley is everything and more than I have ever wanted in a life partner. The active addiction has ended with her. I love her and admire her deeply, particularly for the strength she has showed in our relationship and for her willingness to accept me. I am even now grateful for my addiction, because it brought me to our relationship together. I now see that my desire to connect as the best part of me. It just needs to be focused on one woman— Haley –and that I need to stay aware and honest with her at all times.

I would like to tell other people that you cannot run from yourself. Therapy for sex addicts is about coming to grips with your deepest nature as a sexual and emotional being. If you try to stop it, if you try to hide from sexuality in spirituality or falseness, you become darker and darker. If you accept it, examine it, and look for a healthy place to focus that energy, you will become light and you will learn how to love. Life Design Centre has made this possible for me. It is the place where every part of me can finally be held, and where I can be whole.

I am lovable as a sexual and spiritual being.

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