In Sex Love and Obesity Part 23 I had a major slip in my decision making while attending a convention in Portland. In that moment, albeit unintentionally, I had lit a match to my life. The decisions I made in this over emotional state would quite literally start to burn down everything around me.
I didn’t recognize it yet but using sex as a go-to feel better drug was a problem.
Let’s talk about why I used sex in this manner. Because, quite frankly, I think a lot of post-op WLS patients do this without realizing it’s happening. I don’t think there are enough people in the community willing to stand up and admit they have a problem when it comes to sex. Sex is one of those naughty taboo topics that we don’t talk about in public for fear that people will judge us or think poorly of us.
Looking back, I can trace my precocity back to a very young age. I was about 8 years old when I began stealing pornographic magazines from my much older half-brother. I started masturbating around the same time. By the time I was in the 6th grade I was curious about and interested in sex with boys. I lost my virginity in the 7th grade.
During my teenage years I used sex to define whether boys liked me or cared about me. Because I was overweight, most of the boys that had sex with me in high school didn’t want their friends to know about it. Being over weight meant I would never be the girl they would brag about banging in the locker room. Instead, I was the girl their friends would tease them unmercifully about fooling around with.
By the time I was 18 I had slept with over a dozen boys.
Only two of them had been some kind of serious “boyfriend” in my life. All the others were boys in between them. I believed that by sleeping with them, they would love me. And, more than I wanted anything else in the world, I wanted some boy to love me.
By the time I was married in my early 20’s I had slept with at least a dozen more. All in that same quest of trying to get someone to love me. Because in order for me to feel worthy, someone else had to love me. If nobody loved me, I felt alone and worthless. I associated these things with each other.
Sex, love, being alone, being worthless. They were all very much tied to together. Additionally, they were all tied to my self-esteem and my self-worth. I wasn’t that “fat girl” that defined herself by a number on a scale. My weight wasn’t the benchmark of my self-value. Whether or not someone loved me determined all of that in my mind.
Things began to settle down after my marriage. I had my husband. In the beginning we had an amazing sex life. I had a job in the sex industry. Our hobbies and activities involved sex parties and sex clubs. My entire life revolved around sex in some form or another. My sexual appetite was being fed constantly.
There’s science behind how sex works as a stress regulator.
Sex made me feel better. Orgasms served as a stress relief for me. To this day that is still the truth. There is a rush, a high, that comes during sex. Endorphins surge and your body creates feel-good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine. These chemicals make us feel better and relieve stress. Heck, they even lower blood pressure and act as a natural sedative. It sounds cliché. But ask any guy what they do to relieve stress often one of their answers includes a reference to masturbation. Women, on the other hand, we tend to not say those sorts of things out loud.
As a result of the chemical response your body has to sex, it is an easy thing to form an addiction to. I’m not a doctor, so I cannot speak with any sort of authority on how addiction effects the brain and body chemistry. But as someone who identifies as an addict, I’ve done my fair share of research on the subject. The one thing I can tell you is the effect that addictions have on the brain’s hypothalamus creates problems with stress regulation. We often turn to our addictions as a relief from stress. As a result, since withdraw from addiction is stressful, this creates a viscous cycle.
Not to mention a sex addiction is sort of like a food addiction. Meaning, it’s not something you can eliminate from your life completely. I mean, I guess you could, but who the hell wants to do that? Instead, the goal is really to make healthier choices when it comes to sex. Similar to how when we are trying to lose weight, we need to make healthier choices when it comes to food.
At this point I began to wonder if sex was the crux of my problems.
The lack of sex in my marriage caused me to start looking for something else. Because I associate sex with being loved and being wanted, the lack of it in my marriage led to a point where I had completely zero self-worth. I moved on to a relationship with Clark only to get met with much of the same problem. The lack of sex, despite why it was happening, had me feeling neglected and unworthy. This sent me looking for affection and attention in the arms of others.
That had led me to Peter. Where sex played a completely different role in the equation. The sex wasn’t lacking. I wasn’t doubting if I was loved or wanted. Instead, it was distracting me from the fact that the relationship was completely unhealthy.
I spent my entire life trying to get away from a childhood of emotional, verbal and mental abuse. I worked hard to achieve a life where I wasn’t constantly exposed to arguing, yelling and confrontation. Everything about the relationship with Peter was unhealthy. But the sex distracted me from that.
The ironic part of it is, I went to him because the sex boosted my self-esteem. It made me feel worthier. But everything else in the relationship ruined it. The way he beat me down and devalued me had me feeling more worthless than I had ever felt in my life. I finally fled, only to return to the situation with Clark, where once again, the lack of sex left me feeling unwanted and unworthy. Now here I was in Portland, sleeping with someone else simply because I wanted to feel wanted.
It was a never-ending vicious cycle.
So, I slept with a guy in Portland. We’ll call him Atlantic. He’s not a major player of this story. He comes and goes fast. No pun intended. Here’s the thing about Atlantic. We’d hook-ed up at conventions before. He was familiar. Someone I already knew wanted me. He was also someone I already knew was very unavailable. Unavailable as in, unhappily married, but never going to leave that situation. He wasn’t even supposed to be in Portland. It was surprising to me that he was at the convention. We spent a couple nights together. He insisted things were different in his life, he’d be leaving his wife and moving out on his own soon.
I spent most of my time in Portland intoxicated. It was my second night there. I was sitting at the bar having drinks with fellow attendees when a group of loud young men came to the bar. They we’re in the middle of a bachelor party. We were all dressed to the hills that evening. It was bling night at the convention. I had on a little sparkly red dress that screamed pay attention to me. Several of the young men were hitting on me. One of them offered to buy me a drink. I’m not the type to turn down a handsome young man buying me a drink.
This could have ended very badly for me.
They continued flirting with me. I continued drinking and enjoying the attention. Atlantic was nowhere in sight. Not wanting to be seen together and raising suspicion that something might be going on between us, we tried to avoid each other in public spaces. Before I knew it the room started spinning. I party at conventions a lot. I can handle my alcohol. Just ask my friends. But this was different. This was more like I was suddenly stupid drunk and didn’t know why. I began feeling dizzy and then everything got fuzzy and confusing. I wasn’t sure where I was. But some guy was pulling my hair, yanking my head back and sucking on my face.
Then, someone was calling out my name. “Pandora, I need to steal you away for a few moments. I need to speak to you about a pressing situation in private.” It was one of the people I’d been having drinks with. While his voice seemed far off but recognizable, his face, specifically his eyes and his smile had an unmistakable familiarity. He took my hand and pulled me along with him out of ear’s reach of the gentleman I had been in the company of. “Are you okay Pandora? I thought I should ask, because you don’t seem okay.”
Oh this poor man. To this day I doubt he had any idea what he was getting himself into that night. I have vague recollections of the rest of that evening. Moments of consciousness between blackouts. I’m pretty sure I was roofied that night. If it wasn’t for Shane, I very likely would have ended up being date raped by an entire bachelor party and waking up somewhere on the streets of downtown Portland wondering what the hell had happened to me.
Shane saved me that night.
It’s strange how that happens. How deep friendships can develop over one little incident. Shane babysat me for the rest of the evening. He took me to Starbucks and tried to buy me a coffee to help sober me up. A coffee he says I tipped over on its side as if in awe of the fact that coffee flowed from a cup and poured out on the side walk.
He tried to take me back to my room. But he said I refused to go because I was staying with my Godfather and I insisted I didn’t want him to see me like that. He ended up taking me back to his hotel instead. Though he’d tell you that getting me there was quite an adventure. Apparently, I sat down in the middle of downtown Portland proclaiming that I could not feel my legs and that they were incapable of movement.
Once he had me safely in his room, I insisted on taking a shower. I passed out in the shower. I woke up to him yelling out my name. His back was facing the door of the bathroom as he held a towel out to me through it. “You’ve got to get yourself off that floor Pandora, if I have to come in there and pick you up, you’re going to get me into a lot of trouble.” I ended up sleeping in his bed that night. Like a proper gentleman, he gave it up and slept on the couch.
I now had two other men effecting my decisions.
Once I had gotten back to North Carolina, I now had two other men involved in my crazy chaotic life. Atlantis and Shane.
After that night Shane and I started talking a lot. At first, he was just being a nice guy and following up to see if I was okay. But he became the one person other than my therapist, I would talk to about what was going on. We became very good friends in a very short time.
Shane was having his own issues as well. Just in case anyone reading this puts together who Shane is, I won’t discuss what his issues were. His story isn’t mine to tell. His issues didn’t affect my life or my story. But the things we had in common traced back to our childhoods, our relationships, and how those things manifested themselves in our adult lives.
Like many of my friends, they questioned the decisions I was making.
Shane wondered if my going back to Clark was more about my fear of being alone. He worried that I was settling for something less than what I wanted and less than what I deserved. He worried that whatever part of my brain was making the decision to be with Clark was one that was acting on fear and a need to feel safe in the wake of everything Peter had done triggering my dissociative tendencies.
Atlantis had a completely different role in my life. He was still convinced he was going to leave his wife. He wanted a chance to investigate the prospect of us having a relationship with each other outside of secret hook-ups at conventions. But whether that happened or not, he was adamant about two things. I needed to stop even considering going back to Peter after everything he had done to me. And, I needed to not settle for less than what I really wanted by going back to Clark just because it was safe.
Atlantis kept telling me over and over, “Pandora, no matter what you decide to do. No matter what happens between us, you are an amazing woman and you deserve to be happy.”
It was a good thing they both believed what they were telling me. Because, I sure didn’t. I felt more worthless an unwanted than I had ever felt in my entire life.
Lost, fragmented, broken and worthless. That’s how I felt.
Everyone was telling me I should be on my own and not be in a relationship with anyone. But being alone was the one thing I was more afraid of than anything else in the entire world. As a result of that fear, I had an entire village in my head working on making sure that didn’t happen.
Additionally, anyone telling me I should do the thing I was the most afraid of, was in for a fight. Because, when you try to push me into doing something I’m terrified of, I come out of the corner in survival mode, and I don’t hold back any punches. I wasn’t going to choose to be alone unless there was absolutely no other choice.
But my constant state of disassociation was about to shoot me in the foot. My own actions were about to ensure that the one thing I was most afraid of became the only thing there was to do.