Edward's Story of Hope and Change
My life changed on February 1, 2001 when my wife found some extremely inappropriate pictures I had taken of my daughter's sleeping friend. Some of these pictures showed her unclothed and were sexually explicit in nature. This is why my wife's first reaction was to turn them into the police. It was her courageous act that saved my life. I am now very grateful for what she had to do, but my first reaction was that I was more angry than I had ever been. I hated my wife for what she had done.
I had been on a downward spiral for a long time, with one upswing - when my wife and I married. I used alcohol and pornography extensively, even behind my wife's back. I used the Internet to gain access to even more pornography, and as a computer professional I knew how to cover my tracks. When she left, I turned to drugs to escape the reality of my life.
When she turned those pictures over to the police, it was a clear do-or-die moment. It took a while, but I had to change so I could have some hope for being with my children again, and a detention-center addiction-treatment program helped me do it. Intensive group and one-on-one behavioral modification therapy showed me how completely my drug and alcohol use was intertwined with my criminal sexual behavior.
I also sought out a therapist who specializes in sexual behaviors. I learned that to lead a productive life I would have to remain sober and keep away from all forms of pornography for the rest of my life. I am committed to this change and have surrounded myself with people who will help me maintain that commitment.
There is help out there if you are willing to admit you may have a problem. Groups like Stop It Now! or Sex Alcoholics are available. How do you know if you have a problem? If you have to hide what you are doing or feel ashamed or guilty about your actions, you may have a problem.
I see my children several times a week and maybe for the first time in our lives together, I feel I am part of their upbringing. Slowly, over the years, I am earning the trust of my family, friends and society by showing them that I have turned my life around.
When I look back over the course of my life, I see how far I slipped from the person that I wanted to be. My older siblings and their friends began giving me alcohol when I was around eight. I soon found the pornography magazines that my father had stashed in his room. Throughout my teens and early twenties I spent all of my free time looking at pornography and drinking a lot of alcohol. I thought of girls as sexual objects or trophies. My friends and I would have contests to see who could have sex with the most girls. I never learned to respect girls and treat them as people.
When I met Susie, my wife, I saw a chance to turn my life around. When we got married I thought all of my dreams had come true. I had a good job and a great wife. On the surface everything looked great, but I continued to drink heavily behind her back during our entire marriage. On occasion she would see me drink and ask me to stop. But I was a functional drunk. I was able to manipulate her into thinking I had my drinking under control. I also continued to view pornography behind her back by stashing magazines around the house and looking at them when she wasn't around.
When the Internet came along I could view pornography whenever I wanted to. I had a job in the computer field and knew how to conceal what I was looking at from my wife and others. Or so I thought. I would spend endless hours looking at web sites with all kinds of pornography.
My wife left me after ten years because of my excessive drinking and use of pornography. After she left I turned to hard liquor and pills so I would not have to deal with reality. I know now that choosing to use drugs and alcohol lowered my inhibitions. I began to do things I would not normally have done. I am not blaming the drugs and alcohol - I just know now that it was a part of the spiral I was choosing to take to escape the pain I felt. When my wife turned those pictures over to the police, the decision of what to do was such a clear do-or-die moment for me.
I did not respond well initially. But after my kids were taken from me, I realized that I needed to take full responsibility for my actions. I did not want the only memory my children had of their father to be that of a monster, but of a loving caring father. So on February 21st, 2001 I turned myself in to the authorities.
After my arrest I spent six months in a detention center before I went to court. What happened in the detention center would change my life forever. I asked God for help and a few days later a fellow inmate told me about a program called Jail Addiction Services (JAS). When I applied to the program, they accepted me without checking the charges against me. I was told later that they had never accepted anyone in the program with sexual charges against them, but since I was accepted they would let me stay.
The JAS program was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a strict behavior modification program that I would not be able to walk away from. I had intensive group therapy and one-on-one therapy sessions every day. I had always quit when things got tough, but not this time. I did not like what I had become. I also knew that I had to change so I could be part of my children's lives. Through several evaluations I came to understand that the drug and alcohol abuse was completely intertwined with my criminal behavior. I needed to change all of this.
I completed every court-ordered requirement, but I knew I still had to find out what made me act out the way I did. I sought out a specialist who dealt with sexual problems and discovered that I was also addicted to pornography. During the eighteen months of treatment I came to realize that I am not a monster, but that when I let my life get out of control I did do monstrous acts. I learned that to lead a productive life I would have to remain sober and keep away from all forms of pornography for the rest of my life. I am committed to this change and have surrounded myself with people who will help me maintain that commitment.
I can see now that my actions caused an immense amount of pain to a lot of people. I keep this pain in front of me every day. For anyone who wants to change, I can tell [them] that this path is not easy. I had to start my life over when I got out; I had lost everything that I cared about. I stayed in a homeless shelter for several months, and then I moved into a group home until I made enough money to rent a room. I went to temporary employment services until I found permanent work. I have now been with the same company for several years.
My life is now a thousand times better than it was before I received help. I have had many miracles along the way. I am so grateful to the clergy, social workers, family and friends that helped me on my path of recovery. I would not be the person I am today if all of these people hadn't believed in me, given me emotional support, held me accountable for my past and future actions, and offered the guidance to change my life around.
At first, my wife and her new husband were very skeptical of the changes that I wanted to make. But slowly, over the years, I am earning the trust of my family, friends and society by showing them that I have turned my life around. None of this would have been possible if I hadn't taken full responsibility for my actions and worked hard to change my life around. My family and friends also keep a close watch on my behaviors to ensure that I do not slip in any way. My ex-wife and her new husband are both very watchful and very supportive of my contact with our children.
I want to take this chance to say that there is help out there if you are willing to admit you may have a problem. Groups like Stop It Now! or Sex Alcoholics are available. How do you know you if have a problem? If you have to hide what you are doing or feel ashamed or guilty about your actions, you may have a problem.
I am grateful for this second chance to become a useful and productive member of society. I also know that I have to work extra hard because my life will always be scrutinized. I know so clearly what this is like that I am dedicating my life to working with alcoholics and sex addicts with the hopes of helping others before a child is harmed. Thank you for reading my story.