AM ONLY AS SICK AS MY SECRETS
addicted to me, and that was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I could no
longer hold in all the pain and shame. I cried out in grief as I had this man
inside of me and said, “Take the condom off. I need you. I am addicted to you too.”
Every ounce of who I was washed out of me as I climaxed multiple times with
this man who was not wearing a condom. When it got right down to it, I just didn’t
believe I was worth anything. I wish I could say that I learned from my mistake
that day, but I didn’t. I took that risk again and again with him and others.
thinking about all the emotional baggage I had in my life. I just wanted to be
wanted for me and who I was, but I didn’t know how to get there. Somehow, I
thought I would find the answers to my questions at the bathhouse. The
bathhouse I frequented was a place where men could freely have sex out in the
open or in private rooms. There was porn, a steam room, and showers. The
facility even provided vending machines that were stocked with lubricant, condoms,
when I visited the bathhouse. For example, when someone approached me and wanted
to have sex, I felt empowered. After all, I could say, “yes” or “no.” I hardly
ever said no. But, the joy of being needed by
others was only temporary, and the power I felt was an inauthentic. It
never lasted more than 10 minutes after I left. Always, I worried someone would
see me walking out. Often, feared I might see a client there, and then what
would I do?
life at the time, I thought my business was the only thing worth salvaging, but
I was wrong. I didn’t realize that through my obsessive sexual behavior, I was
abandoning my own business too. I spent so much time worrying about my next sexual
fix that often my focus and attention was not on my therapy practice and its
growing clientele. Also, I was doing things that were actually illegal, such as
videotaping men in restrooms or locker rooms. But what can I say? I got high from that kind of thing which temporarily
relieved the pain and chaos swirling around inside me. The fact that I wasn’t
getting caught was exhilarating. I actually thought this was normal behavior. In
fact, I thought it was so normal that I never hesitated to send copies
of my illegal videos and pictures to friends. They sent me their photos too.
seeing a forensic psychologist who has been in the business for over 30 years. Every
week I told him about my struggles, and every week he said the same thing, “Go
to a meeting.”
going to meetings. However, my therapist was insistent; he wanted me to see how
12-Step meetings could work for me. During our sessions, he often pulled out
the AA Big Book, having me read through “The 12 Steps.”
Codependents Anonymous, but at the time, I didn’t get it. Along with “not
getting it,” I didn’t want anyone to tell me about how I was “codependent.”
Frankly, I didn’t have a real sense of what the word even meant. Most weeks,
after therapy, I continued to walk down to the bathhouse to have sex for a few
hours. Was I codependent on the sex?
my sophomore year of high school, I now recognize this is when my codependence
and sex and love addiction fully emerged. I wish
someone would have told me that I was being targeted by a sick, child molester.
While hanging out at my great-grandmother, Mama Sara’s house, I saw someone out
of the corner of my eye. It was Kenny. I had always known him as one of my
dad’s closest friends. While growing up, I had gone over to his home many times
to play with his nephew. Kenny had always been friendly to me. He lived right
across the street from Mama Sara.
he walked over and asked if he could sit down next to me. I said, “Sure.” I had
noticed that his wife and two boys were hanging out on his front porch…I didn’t
really know them all that well. Kenny and I started talking, and he asked what
was going on with me. Like always, he asked when
was the last time I had spoken to my dad. Honestly, I couldn’t remember.
Kenny always insisted that I call my dad and try to work things out. He was pretty
much a broken record when it came to that subject.
formalities out of the way, the conversation slowly turned to an awkward
topic. In short, Kenny said he knew what was going on with my family and me. At
first, I was puzzled. What he was talking about. But as he continued, it was
like he had been a fly on the wall inside my house; he knew I was gay. I was
he was interested in talking with me about
it. He had genuine empathy for my situation, and he made an effort to understand
what I must have been going through. Finally, I said to myself, here is someone who is finally willing to
listen to me and possibly be objective about the whole thing. At that
moment, I felt a ton of weight lifted from my shoulders. But the weightlessness
didn’t last long.
a little dark. It was like he was too
supportive. It was like he was trying to coax me into saying something he
wanted to hear, but I had no clue what that was. Throughout our conversation, I
kept glancing at him, and he was just staring at me really intensely. His was a
look I had never seen before in my life, and I started to get nervous. I felt
shaky, and my hands got very clammy. Then, he popped the question I will never
forget for as long as I live. He straightforwardly asked me to kiss him. I couldn’t
believe my ears. This man was no less than two feet from my face, and he was
asking me to kiss him. My heart started to race. At first I thought his gesture
was some kind of joke, especially since his family was sitting on his front
porch, directly across the street from us, probably wondering why he was even
talking to me in the first place. And now,
he was asking for a kiss?
what the hell he was talking about and why he was asking for such a thing,
especially since his wife was right across the way. I asked if he was gay. He
said he didn’t like “labels.” I thought this was kind of funny because I assumed
his label as husband and father, should stand for a lot. But, I guess not. That’s
when he told me he was interested in me. That was all I needed to hear to get
totally freaked out. I had no earthly idea what to do next. I wondered, what interest could a 40-something have in a
16-year old? I told him I had to go inside, and he looked at me as if I were
Juliet and him, Romeo. There was so much intensity in that look, and I was actually
was his initial step in him “grooming” me for a secret, sexual relationship. It
was a gradual, calculated process. Step 1: Targeting the victim Kenny sized my vulnerabilities up that day. He was empathic
to my situation at home and assured me he was not going to be just one more
adult interested in judging me for being gay. Kenny wanted to “protect” me.
there, I began to cry. I was so confused. There were a billion questions rolling
around in my head. I didn’t understand what had just happened. This grown man—my
dad’s friend, a married man, a father—had just told me of his interest in me.
He had asked for a kiss while his wife sat only 50 feet away. I was in total
shock. Since I had no one to talk to, I had to deal with it all on my own. I definitely
didn’t want to risk my family finding out. I cried myself to sleep that night.
I just kept thinking that the whole thing had to be some kind of joke. I tried my
best to banish the incident from my mind. Well, no sooner did I try to do that, and I saw him again. Getting
off the bus for my job at the mall, there he was.
route that included the mall. When I
heard this, I let out a scream in the back of my mind—this was all too much for
me. If he was now working at the mall where I worked, this increased my chances
of seeing him on a regular basis. Which really scared me. It occurred to me
that maybe he was some sick man who lusted after young boys. If only I had
decided to trust my own instincts. But eventually, I decided to throw that idea
out the window because, if that were the case, why didn’t he do anything or say
something before now?
across the street from the mall to catch the bus home. Kenny’s car was parked
near the bus stop. He had also been
working that day, so we engaged in casual conversation at the bus stop for a
few minutes. Our small talk wasn’t anything really dramatic, but I noticed more
and more that I had these crazy feelings whenever I was around him. I found
myself growing awkwardly attracted to
this man who was old enough to be my father. After all, Kenny was 45 at the time,
which was way older than my own dad.
later, I worked the evening shift and once again, rode the bus home. By the
time I made it back to my neighborhood, it was dark. I got off the bus and
headed down the hill to Mama Sara’s house. Everything was fine until I heard a car
pull up behind me. I knew it was Kenny because his car made this awful sound.
He stopped the car, and I turned around to see what he wanted. He asked if I
wanted a lift to my place. Stage two: Gaining a victim’s trust I thought about it for a minute, and then I got into the
car with him. That’s when he said he needed to make a quick detour to the local
drugstore to pick up some ice cream for his wife.
was really interesting having such a lengthy discussion with him. I didn’t feel
like a child when I talked to him. I felt as though he valued my opinions. I
felt a connection with him. We walked into the store together to get what he
needed and then headed back toward home.
of him and me. I still thought he was crazy. Why would he want me? I still hadn’t figured this man out.
All I knew was that I was growing really
attracted to him, and this became evident because I was so aroused around him. I couldn’t tell him whether or not anything
could actually develop between us. I couldn’t think that far in advance at that
around on the sidewalk for a few minutes. Since Mama Sara’s house was right
there, I was scared that someone would see me with him. As I started to leave
to walk home, he pulled me back and held me. I froze. I liked it. I liked the
feeling of his hands on me. But then, I quickly snapped out of it, pulled away
from him, and hurried home. I knew right then I was in trouble. I actually
liked this man, and he liked me. What was I to do? Kenny gained my trust, and I
was on my way to “needing” him.
three: filling a need A few days later I got a
page on my pager. It was Kenny. I had totally forgotten I had given him my pager
number. I called him back, and he wanted to know what I was doing and when I
had to work. I told him I had to work that morning, and apparently, so did he. He gave me a ride to work, and it was so strange being
in his car this time. I felt like a fugitive on the run. I rendezvoused
with him further down my street so my family wouldn’t see me getting into his
car. As he drove me to work, I kept an eye out for other family members’ cars.
I just knew I would be dead if they knew I was with Kenny.
undetected, and, afterwards, we planned to
go to lunch. So after our shifts ended, we hooked back up in the mall parking
lot and went to lunch at this little diner down the street. I felt so strange being with him. I was worried
about what people might say. Maybe, they thought I was his son or brother?
Maybe, they thought we were lovers? Hell, I
didn’t even know what we were.
me and thought I was valuable. He was interested in what I had to say and how I
felt. I didn’t feel lonely when he was around. I didn’t feel scared anymore.
way there, he reached over and touched my leg. It felt good. I got this warm
sensation. It was unreal. I liked his affection. I believe, on some unconscious
level, I forgot this man had a wife and kids. Was I wrong for doing this? I didn’t
know then. I was enjoying myself. After all the hell I had been through, I
thought I needed to enjoy my surroundings, and he just happened to be a part of
those surroundings. That’s what I told myself. I was a scared kid looking for
his driveway. I looked back, and I could only make out part of Mama Sara’s house,
so I doubted anyone could see me. He hopped out of the car and told me to come in.
My heart sank. I couldn’t move. I told him there was no way in hell I was going
into his house, but he kept begging me. He even came over to my door and playfully
tried to drag me out. But still, I didn’t budge. Truth be told; I was terrified
because of a serious look on his face, and I knew what was going on in his mind—he
wanted to mess around. But, I knew there was no way I could do that. I knew I had
to get my ass out of that car. He finally backed off, and I went home. I was
relieved to be home, my heart pounding. I was all worked up.
pursue me, and me not knowing what to do. He called me constantly. It didn’t
matter where I was; he just kept calling. Having my pager going off so much was
sort of nerve–racking, but I secretly enjoyed sneaking off to use the phone to
see what Kenny wanted. Kenny called me from his home, work, anywhere—and this
made me feel good. I felt like I was the only person in his life whenever I was
around him. He paid so much attention to me, and I couldn’t have asked for anything
more. Eventually, the fact that he had a wife didn’t seem to bother me at all, because
soon he and I finally had sex.
from work. This time when he pulled into his driveway and asked me to come in,
I didn’t hesitate. He took me to the back bedroom in his house. There was a bathroom, mini-kitchenette, futon
bed, and phone—it was like his own studio apartment. He showed me around the
other parts of the house, and I saw his family portraits—he had a great-looking
four: Isolation He closed and locked the bedroom
door, and my heart jumped out of my chest.
hoping he wouldn’t try to do anything—but in the back of my mind, I wanted him
just as badly as he wanted me. I had never been in a situation like this before.
I had never even been interested in older men.
five: Sexualizing the relationship Then, it
finally happened. He came up to me turned me around, and we kissed. I couldn’t
feel my feet…I was floating on air. His lips tasted so good (smoker’s breath,
but still good). The next thing I knew our clothes were coming off and we were
having wild, passionate, uncontrolled sex. I had never had it like that before,
so I just let myself go.
that moment. It was like nothing I had ever imagined or experienced. After we
both had climaxed, he ran some bath water, and we both got in. I was in heaven.
He washed my throbbing body, and it felt so, so good. We kissed some more and
fondled each other in the bath.
day. I was partially relieved because I didn’t have to keep telling him “no.” I
was feeling very anxious because I worried that my family would find out. I
became trapped in a web of lies and became even more isolated from my family
and dependent on Kenny.
six: Maintaining control In the following weeks, we met
secretly at his home, at work, around the block, in the shrubs near the mall—anywhere
we could kiss and makeout. We would even sit out in broad daylight kissing in
his car in the mall parking lot. It felt like a real relationship. I bought him
sweet little cards from Hallmark, wrote him poetry, and did anything else I
could do to show him how much he meant to me. He took me out to lunch
occasionally. One time he even went to help me shop for school clothes. We
bought matching “K-Swiss” t-shirts! Sometimes I looked out my window, and I
could see him wearing his t-shirt, and I just knew it was some kind of sign
that he was thinking about me.
while I sat on my screened-in front porch. He usually stood out in the street while
we talked. One night, all hell broke loose. Mama Sara had apparently started noticing
how Kenny was always coming over to talk to me (it was usually around 11 or midnight,
but she noticed). Kenny and I were standing there talking about random things
when my cousin, Samantha, came storming out of the house, demanding that Kenny
leave me alone. She started ranting and raving about how he had no business
talking to me. It was such a mess. I was pissed beyond belief. Kenny left, and
I went inside demanding to know why in the hell she had decided I couldn’t talk
believe Samantha had embarrassed me like that. I demanded an answer as to why I
couldn’t talk to Kenny. That’s when Mama Sara said that she knew all about
Kenny, and she knew he was trying to mess with me.
talk to or see. Then, she played the AIDS card. She went on and on about our neighbor
whose son died of AIDS because he was gay. I had no clue why she couldn’t
understand that anybody can contract AIDS, not just gay people. She got all
emotional and started saying that she didn’t want me to be like all the other gays
of some fight Kenny and his wife supposedly had out on the street a few days
back. I hadn’t heard about any fight. I asked how she knew about it. Just like
I figured, she heard about it from all the neighborhood gossip. I was appalled.
I wanted to get out of that fucking house so bad at that moment. I called Kenny
and told him what went down. He claimed he had no idea what Mama Sara was
talking about concerning a fight. From that day forward, everything at my
great-grandmother’s house got worse.
I started lying about going to the library, so I could see Kenny. I thought my
family was trying to take me away from the one that I loved so much. I had
fallen hard for this man in just a month’s time. I wrote countless poems that
expressed my undying love for Kenny. Here is a sample of one of the poems I wrote
of My Heart
a ray of light, you shined into my life.
took my hand and held it tight.
looked at you, very sweet, indeed.
touched my soul and, like a thief in the night, you stole my heart.
wasn’t willing to, give at first, but with your honesty and trust, I must.
in a day, every second of every hour, every day of every month, I will always
you have a piece of my heart.
cherish me, as I do you.
may not be yours in the fullest extent, but in our hearts we’ll always be.
love you with every inch of my heart, but remember only one piece is given when
summer. Kenny had come into my life and became everything I thought I was
missing. Every chance I could take to see him, I did. He told me he needed me.
He told me he loved me. I was convinced that I was in love too. It wasn’t clear
at the time, but I now know that my child molester had the ultimate grip on my
disobeyed my family like this and lied to so many people. I was different now;
I was not myself. I became obsessed with Kenny. But, he knew I was only staying
with Mama Sara for the summer, so he slowly tried to push me away. He finally succeeded
when he asked me if I thought he would ever leave his family for me. I said I
hoped that he would. He said there was no way he would.
from this caring, loving friend and lover to this evil user. But, I still
couldn’t hate him. Before I left, he said he would always love me and cherish
everything I had ever given to him. All of these moments ignited my addictions,
but the stage was set much earlier in my childhood.
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE
Darrett “D.J.” Burr is a licensed mental health counselor in the Washington State; national certified counselor and a specialist in problematic sexual behavior. He has been in private practice in Seattle, WA for five years. D.J. is the co-founder, owner, and Executive Director of A.B.L.E. Counseling Services, LLC.
D.J. is the creator of ABLE Affirmations, ABLE Life Recovery, and the ABLE Care Clinic. D.J. published Unfinished: A GLBT Domestic Violence Workbook while completing his Masters in Community Counseling at Argosy University-Atlanta in 2009.
Born in raised in Marietta, GA, D.J. has been known to many as a survivor. His childhood was less-than-nurturing. D.J. spent the majority of his early years tending to other’s needs and wants; not knowing what his were. He kept fighting for more–more understanding of himself.
Unfortunately, D.J. lost focus after being targeted by a sexual predator. D.J. lapsed into addiction to numb the pain of the molestation, broken relationships, dysfunctional family of origin, and loss of his childhood. However, the addiction did not stop him.
Over 15 years later, D.J. has learned to live life instead of surviving life. D.J. found answers to his long unanswered questions, primarily, who loves me? Twelve Step recovery and rigorous honesty saved D.J. from a life of addiction. He can now say, “I love myself.” Loving himself allowed D.J. to stop chasing unavailable people, places, and things. He now focuses on his recovery, which impacts every facet of his life.
D.J. enjoys writing, watching movies, especially horror/suspense. His favorite band is Nickelback. His favorite R&B group is Destiny’s Child. D.J. is also a huge fan of old 80s-90s cartoons like Transformers.You can visit D.J. Burr’s website at www.ijustwantedlove.com
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