I am working up the courage to tell my full story to the men in my sex addiction recovery group. I have had a hard time opening up about my secrets because I am afraid that if I open up, no one will understand me, let alone accept me. The first lie I believed was that no one else struggled with porn and no one would understand me. I eventually found out that LOTS of people struggle with porn, they just don't want to talk about it. Besides this secret, there are other things that I vowed to myself to never tell anyone else, but this secrecy seems to be hindering my recovery.

I got into porn as a sophomore in high school. I had just gotten my first laptop, and this was back before people realized it was important to secure your WiFi. At night, I would wait until everyone went to bed, then I would lock my door, pull out my laptop, and connect to the one or two bars coming from a neighbor's house. I would log on and look for porn. My next secret was the type of porn that I looked for; it wasn't what you would think of in the traditional sense. I would search for pictures of body painting- not models in lingerie, not naked models, not actors having sex on camera. I felt guilty about this and didn't want to type in "naked body painting", so I would search for more benign things: face paint, animal face paint, tiger face paint. I would scroll till I found someone who had more than their face painted, and I'd click "show more results like this." I would continue this pattern until I found a woman wearing nothing but paint; feeling guilty about this, I would lie to myself and say "she's not REALLY naked because she's covered by paint."

My next secret was why I felt turned on by browsing for this. I would fantasize about me being the person who was painted from head to toe. I would imagine being painted as a tiger, or a dog, or a clown, or some other animal or character. I would imagine being restrained while someone painted my entire body, and then I would imagine being stuck that way, like the painted wouldn't wash off. I would imagine what life would be like if I had to walk around painted forever. I think some of the thrill came from imagining being embarrassed from being noticed.

My next secret is that I would paint my face to supplement this fantasy. I started painting my face even before I started using porn. At first I used anything I could get my hands on: charcoal from the fire place, art supplies like latex paint, magic markers, oil pastels, etc. Eventually I went out and bought cheap Halloween makeup, and then I bought a more expensive face painting kit. I kept this a complete secret because I felt so self-conscious about it. I think fear of getting caught added to the thrill. I would go into the bathroom and lookup an image on my phone and carefully paint it on my face. I taught myself how to do a dalmatian, a tiger, a clown, a cat, and several other things. Staring at my transformed face in the mirror, I imagined walking out into public that way. I imagined that I had turned into the creature that I painted. I imagined that the paint was permanent and wouldn't come off; the fear of embarrassment was a huge rush, and many times I would masturbate before showering and washing it off. I made sure to leave no trace of makeup or paint on my face for fear I would be outed.

My next secret is that when I was very young (i am not exactly sure when, but probably between 5 and 10) I would fantasize about turning into something else, and I would hump the bed. I don't think I realized really what I was doing at the time, but looking back, I think that I was trying to cope with living with my parent's unhealthy emotions. I remember my father's anger from a young age, when he was angry with me, he would yell or scream at me for several minutes on end. Any reaction I had to his tirade was said to be "disrespectful" and I never learned to express my emotions safely. I believe this may have been the cause of my fantasies- to escape mentally from the present. I would fantasize that I had eaten something that magically turned me into something else- an animal, a character like a clown, that I grew a bodypart like a tail or horns.

As I got older, I started to fantasize about girls turning me into something else. I pictured my face being painted like an animal or clown. I fantasized mainly about the girls who I had crushes on, but I didn't dare tell them that I liked them. (I was a pretty lonely kid) I tried to cope with this by fantasizing that they liked me. I had a fantasy that a girl I liked had a magic lipstick she could wear that would force whoever she kissed to fall in love with her; I would imagine it being used on me. I fought loneliness as best I could with my imagination. Masturbation accompanied all of these fantasies.

My next secret is that during a few years while I was going through puberty, I had fantasies of being turned into a girl, and what I imagine that would feel like. I don't know what caused these, and I was ashamed of them at the time. I still don't want anyone to find out, but I'm trying to be more open. The reason I feel like I can do this is that none of you know who I am, and I can stay anonymous. The gender-swap fantasy was very enticing to me for some reason. I even went so far as to find makeup in the bathroom cabinet and put it on my face. I would try on lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, etc to fuel the fantasy, making sure to wash my face completely before anyone saw me.

As I got into college, I got bolder and told close mentors about my struggle with pornography, leaving out everything listed above. The addiction continued to be a challenge, and I was stuck in the cycle of porn, masturbation, fantasy, and face painting to act out. As time went on, I got bolder with my fantasies and started finding excuses to wear face paint in public. At a Halloween dance, I convinced my girlfriend to dress as a cat while I dressed as a dog. I painted her face and mine and we went to the dance. I was thoroughly self-conscious about the level of attention that I was getting, but it was a constant thrill as well. My girlfriend was un-easy about the way I was acting so excited by this, and she told me she didn't feel comfortable with it. This pattern repeated year after year; I would convince her to wear face paint with me and she would feel uncomfortable. The next year we did yellow emoji faces, and the year after that we had a spiderman costume facemask and arms painted on.

I'm married to her now, and she doesn't want anything resembling my fantasy in our apartment. I'm still fighting the urges to lookup things online, to fantasize, etc. I want to be rid of the porn addiction in the worst way, but there's another part of me that doesn't want to let go of the fantasies. I'm torn because I don't know how to tell my brain that it can't have what it wants. I think, "if i could just have the body painting fantasy by painting myself, but not looking on at pictures on the internet, then that would be ok, right?" However I am aware that this would be walking on the edge of the cliff.

I'd be interested to know your reactions to any or all of this. Is any of this relatable? On a scale of 1 to 10 how weird does this sound? Do you have any theories about what may have caused these thoughts and fantasies? Writing all of this out has been helpful to me to look back and understand some of my feelings from back then. I appreciate all your help so far as I work to stay on the road to sobriety.

Thanks

-ThankfulForGrace
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  • @ThankfulForGrace Hey there. Thank you for the update and for sharing a good bit of your story with us. I understand that it can be challenging to open up about secrets. But it sounds like you're making some progress there and you're not judging yourself for it. So that's a good thing!

    I don't really have a lot of feedback because I'm not really that familiar with this. I mean the painting. On a weirdness scale, I don't really have much of a comment. Sure it's not what a lot of people talk about, but I imagine there are plenty of others who have this affinity for painting. I saw a woman being painted at a metaphysical Festival last weekend. I was like, "cool". I've seen plenty of beautiful art with people being painted like nature. But if it's causing you distress, then yes I'm glad that you're getting some help for that. You've created a lot of neural connections through the years.... so it may take time and a therapist to help "unlearn" those and learn other connections or habits...etc.

    My guess is that a professional therapist may be able to help you get to the root of this.

    As always,we are here to support and encourage you however we can. Again I thank you for sharing this with us.
  • @ThankfulForGrace... I'm glad that writing all of that out has been helpful to you. That's one reason we're here: To give people a place to get things off their chest, because that can be such a cathartic act.

    As far as whether or not I think the things you told us about are "weird"... I don't know if I'd go that far. Are they different? Sure. And I admit that it's nothing I've ever fantasized about. But everyone's fantasies (and I believe everyone has them) are different. So who am I to judge yours? On a scale of 1-10, which is what you asked for, I'd give it a 3 or so.

    I agree with @dominica that a professional therapist would likely be able to help you figure all of this out. I can't remember...Have you tried therapy before? If not, you might want to look into it. What have you got to lose?

    One last thing. And I'm only putting this out there because it's something I wonder about. You refer to your addiction as a "porn addiction," but the things you like to look at don't even seem like "porn" to me. Looking at naked people who have had their bodies painted might be risque, but is it porn? I don't know. Maybe it's more of a "fetish"? I know that Supreme Court justice way back when said "I know it when I see it" when someone asked him to define pornography. So I guess everyone's definition is different. But I'm curious to know if others think. Also, none of this is meant to minimize your issue at all, because I know it's something that's troubling you and causing problems in your life. It's really just me thinking out loud. Or, I guess, in type.

    I'd love to hear @JoshuaShea's take on this, if he's around to weigh in at some point.

    Sending you lots of strength and hope and encouragement, @ThankfulForGrace. Thanks again for sharing so openly with us. I'm proud of you for doing that.
  • Thanks for the tag @DeanD Still trying to finish this next book and between that and keeping up with the website, it leaves me very little time to hang out here.
    OK @ThankfulForGrace on a weirdness, I give it a Who Cares? We're all turned on by things we don't want to admit for fear that it makes us somehow different. There's a sub-genre of porn called Furries where people are aroused by others wearing animal costumes. This sounds like a version of it without the fur. Hey, if that's what you like, that's what you like.
    You didn't talk a lot about how the pornography played a role in all of this after you discovered the body painting, so it's hard to give you specific advice about that.
    I have two thoughts for you moving forward. First, tell your wife everything about it. I hid my sexual thoughts from my wife for nearly a dozen years, satiating my more exotic desires with pornography. If there's one person in this world who shouldn't laugh at you or call you a freak, it's your wife. As I wrote in my book, I should be able to tell my wife the weirdest fantasy I could think of. I should be able to tell her I want to have sex with her while Irish music plays and four midgets pelt us with tater tots. My wife's reaction would be, "No thank you, that's a waste of food, we don't know one midget much less three and I don't like Irish music." But in my mind, for so long, she would have called me crazy if I said anything even half as exotic as that. So, try to talk to your wife about your history with these fetishes.
    Next, I'd suggest you work to find out where these fetishes come from and why they make you feel the way you do. There are some people who get turned on by exactly the same thing you do, but they are completely open about it and it doesn't cause them pain. Why this is causing you pain is important to figure out. Remember, the pornography, the shame, the pain...those are all symptoms of a bigger issue that you need to deal with. Get a therapist and start digging in.
    If you need some resources, check out that page on my website at http://www.RecoveringPornAddict.com
  • Thanks for taking the time to reply, @JoshuaShea. Now get back to work on that book!

    @ThankfulForGrace... I think Josh has given you some very good insight and advice. Your thoughts??
  • @ThankfulForGrace Hey there! I hope things are going better for you. When you get a chance, love to hear from you!
  • How are you doing, @ThankfulForGrace? If you get a spare minute or two, please stop by and let us know. Happy Friday!
  • Hello everyone! Thanks for the chance to do a trial run online. Today I am meeting with my recovery group to tell my story of addiction recovery. I appreciate the chance to have a sounding board while posting anonymously, as this isn't an easy thing to talk about. Porn and masturbation is still a struggle for me, but I have a great support group at a local church that have been keeping me accountable. Thanks for your advice and prayers while I continue to fight this battle.
  • @ThankfulForGrace

    Hey there! It's so good to hear from you. Thank you for catching us up to speed here. I think it's wonderful that you're telling your story of addiction recovery to your Recovery Group! It certainly isn't easy to talk about, but I believe that being vulnerable helps us to heal.

    And others need to know that they're not alone either. We've all got some sort of struggle going on inside. I'm so glad that you are recovering and that you've got a good support system. Give yourself a big high-five!

    Let us know how it goes! We will be thinking of you!
  • Thanks for the update, @ThankfulForGrace. It sounds like you are working hard on your recovery, and that's a fabulous thing! I'm proud of you for sharing with your recovery group, too. Let us know how the meeting went.

    Happy Friday!
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