Surrendering the Childhood Shame
My name is Bill and I was in therapy with Dr. Nicolosi for about three years. I’m now in my fifties and I’m an orthopedic surgeon.
I knew from the time of puberty that I was different from most people. I always felt that I was missing something, that there was something that wasn’t quite right with me, and that maybe it was even genetic. I was drawn to physically attractive men but I was also attracted to women, and I managed to date in college.
I didn’t feel that I was attractive to the men I admired, and I kind of assumed that that was to be expected; looking back, I think that was due to my low sense of self-worth.
After college, I married, but very soon, I became a homosexual sex addict, a pornography addict and a drug addict. I was looking at gay pornography as a daily ritual, and sometimes I would stay up all night. My wife discovered what I was doing and she started going to a women’s support group for wives of sex-addicted men at church. One night a woman gave her one of Nicolosi’s books, “Healing Homosexuality,” – stories of different men struggling with homosexuality, and for some reason I looked at the cover and started reading and just couldn’t put it down. I would cry almost every night thinking that I could identify so much with these guys and their stories. I told my wife, “I need help” and I got into therapy with Nicolosi.
I’ve come to understand some of the things that happened to me when I was younger, and I realize now that did the best I could as a young boy and as a young man. I didn’t understand the world or have any reason to suspect that there could ever be anything but good intentions from other people, especially family members in position of authority over me. I’ve also come to realize that sometimes adults unwittingly hurt their children. And I learned to forgive the mistakes that I myself made as a young boy and young adult.
When I was about 10 or 11 my family had a hardware store and there was a back office with this ugly leather couch that I remember all too well. My uncle was in business with my father; the whole family worked there. I was young so I would be in the back office resting, and my uncle would come in and undress and basically show me his genitals and come walking close up to me. I really had just blocked it out and forgotten about it, and I really had no conscious feelings about it; I was completely numb to it until we started talking about it, years later in therapy. But I think I just went into total denial mode at the time. I didn’t tell my parents or my grandparents or my brother so I thought I must have been an accomplice to it and have brought it on for some reason. There must have been a reason that I allowed it to happen.
I was a chubby, unathletic kid who was made fun of and as time went by, I basically began to believe that I must be gay. Kids were calling me a “fat fag” or uncoordinated, and were picking me last for a team, and so I basically took on the role. Also, my uncle coming on to me, putting his genitals near my face, made me question myself, thinking, “Maybe I am gay, and this is why he is doing this to me?”
My father was a great guy and everybody used to say what a gentleman he was, but he was totally dominated by my mother. She was the driving force in the family and she totally dominated his life and also our lives. My father became a workaholic and he would work from 5:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night, seven days a week. I really don’t have very many memories of him. I have an older brother, but I was always my mother’s boy. I was dressed by her sometimes in feminine clothes, and she used to always tell me how bad my father was and how he didn’t do this right or he didn’t do that right, and didn’t make enough money-- all the complaints she had were lobbed at me. I took them on and assumed it as my role that I was my mother’s “husband.”
In therapy I learned that I am 100% man and my body is only subtly different from that of any other man. I have all the same parts and they work. I am able to please women just like any other man and I even have the same problems that straight guys have, the same worries and the same fears. The reality that I’ll never be a great athlete-- it’s just a fact. Perhaps if my father had spent more time with me or other people had spent more time with me I would have been athletic, but I’m not, and I’m never going to be, and I’m OK with that. I have other ways to exercise and make myself fit.
Since my SSA has diminished, I see more clearly my responsibility to my family. In my preoccupation with my problems I’ve long neglected them. I have a son who is now 12 and I had found myself falling into the same patterns I was in during my addiction of ignoring him and my wife. She was very forceful in a lot of ways and I had to really step in and take over and mentor my son and save him from the same fate that I had faced. I pride myself on the fact that I’ve been involved in a youth organization. I now spend weekends with my son-- I spend a lot of time with him. I help with his homework, and I just talk to him. It’s really helped me a lot to be able to see the pattern that I was caught in as a child, and avoid inflicting it on another person, in this case my son, and turn it around. I also learned and it was really important for me, that it’s OK to look at others and admire them because there are men and women who are absolutely physically very beautiful and genetically gifted and they may have bigger genitalia than me or be slim and have great muscles or be very handsome or beautiful but I have other things of value they don’t have and probably won’t have. It’s OK to admire them for what they have and I don’t need to sexualize them. That’s a key understanding for me that it’s OK to just admire, not sexualize, what they have.
Today my SSA is really minimal unless I am stressed. It takes a lot of things for me to get stressed and destabilized, and that’s usually a combination of work, home, and financial problems and then I become a little insecure about myself. But I have no interest in acting out sexually with men anymore. I have slipped maybe 2 or 3 times in the past few years looking at pornography and that’s been my slip but I’ve not gone back into drugs. I really don’t want to masturbate; I don’t want to look at gay porn. Each time I’ve actually acted out, I’ve been able to discuss it with my wife and work through it and I was very blessed because although she’s uncomfortable about it, she’s there for me.
When I started therapy my homosexual activity was almost a daily thing. I lied to my wife all the time, I was always out screwing around with many different people… I looked at pornography every night, masturbating every night. I was web-caming with other men on the web every day.
I thought I was managing the responsibility of a physician fine, although toward the end I really was out of control and I knew I was addicted to pornography, masturbation and drugs and I really wanted help but I didn’t know how to ask for help so I wanted my wife to catch me, and ultimately it did happen that way. It was embarrassing, it was humiliating but I’m very thankful that it happened. My wife is doing her work on the relationship right along with me and we’ve come a long way.
Today I have zero interest in gay stuff. But I realize that after years of a habit pattern, I still have to be vigilant. I’m learning to recognize the things that could still lead me back down into the graveyard of that thought process, and I try to prevent that from happening and I have learned how to minimize that.
One of the things that stresses me out is being used by people without even realizing it, and trying to meet people’s expectations, trying to please other people and knocking myself out, and when that happens, the stress just builds up. I have to check that and that’s a reality check from time to time. That is the way I’ve been taught. Basically, I was conditioned by my mother to always be giving to others and denying myself, with the message I seemed to have learned: “Today is for you, tomorrow for me.”
I started reading Nicolosi’s book “Shame and Attachment Loss.” And I got to tell you that I’m not stupid but that’s the hardest, most dense book I’ve every really read. I really felt a need to practice every word and understand every concept and I would be lying if I said I understand it all, but I have the basics and it helped a lot.
When I started seeing Nicolosi I was still doing drugs and I was still acting out. I was in therapy thinking that would help for my wife but for awhile, I really wasn’t changed, it really wasn’t working.
The turning point was on a Sunday night. I wanted to go to the bathhouses and act out and do some drugs. I was driving back from a weekend conference and I kept trying to decide if I should go by the bathhouse. If I drove by I knew I would go in. If I saw where it was I knew that it was inevitable that I would go and I told myself, you have a chance to make things better for your life and you’re at a crossroads here you can have a fresh start and what are you going to do about it? I decided instead to go to a hotel. I checked in and called my wife and told her all about it. I cried on the phone, then ordered a steak, ice cream and apple pie, and my life has just been so blessed and beautiful since then. I have learned that I can make the choice not to get involved in that.
I have also been able to tell my 25-year-old daughter about every living, breathing detail as well as my wife. I never want anyone to come up to her and say, “Do you know what your father did?” I wanted her to know the truth from me.
When I told my 25-year-old her response was, “I thought something was wrong with me. I thought you were ignoring me and not spending any time with me because something was wrong with me.” So it was not a pleasant discussion for me; it made me feel terrible. It was very difficult, but I’m just grateful that I did it, so maybe she can have some perspective and know that my ignoring her had nothing to do with her at all.
I’m not a religious person, I’m not Christian, in fact I’m Jewish but I don’t practice any religion. I could almost say that I was agnostic or almost atheist but I honestly have had a spiritual enlightenment or awakening. It embarrasses me and I hate to say it. It’s hard to believe that I would ever say it, but something changed. I think it was the surrender part and I surrendered my shame, my shame that I had been carrying around, the shame about things I was doing and the way I felt as a child. I had been carrying this burden on my shoulders for so long.